As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the United States, some experts are saying that the country could be entering a fifth wave of the virus as summer approaches.
In the last week alone, COVID cases in the state of Illinois have gone up by more than 40%, while hospitalizations have also begun a slow increase, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“If you look at our rates, (and) if you look, for example, at the CDC maps, we are right up there with the east coast,” Dr. Sharon Welbel of Cook County Health says.
The East Coast has been seeing rapid increases in COVID cases in recent weeks, largely fueled by a new subvariant of omicron. Numerous counties are now considered to be at a “high community level” of the virus, with officials raising alerts that residents may need to take serious precautions to avoid becoming sick.
“The virus mutates very readily, and it mutates frequently,” Dr. Robert Citronberg of Advocate Aurora Health says. “And that’s why we have so many variants.”
While no Illinois counties are at the “high community level” of COVID, there are 14 that are currently at a “medium community level” of the virus. That includes Cook County, as well as seven other Chicago-area counties, according to CDC data.
Statewide, Illinois is now averaging 5,154 new cases of the virus per day, a 41.6% increase over a week ago and an increase of more than 180% in the last month, according to IDPH data.
Hospitalizations have increased by just over 5% in the last week, with 777 Illinois patients who have tested positive for COVID.
Those hospitalization trends, along with the fact that more than 73% of eligible state residents are fully vaccinated against COVID, are giving officials some hope that a massive surge, and potential lockdowns, can be avoided.
Even still, there is still concern that numbers will continue to trend upward in the weeks to come.
“The more people that get vaccinated, the less likely it is to have any shutdowns,” Citronberg said. “That being said, I do not anticipate any significant shutdowns in our area.”
While Chicago health officials are encouraging residents to wear masks in indoor places, they are not issuing any new mandates to that effect. If the county goes into a “high community level” of the virus, then such mandates could conceivably return to line up with CDC guidelines.
Whether such a move would occur remains unknown, however.