coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Chicago Health Officials Preparing for Omicron, Variant Now in 16 States

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The omicron variant has now been detected in 16 US states, and four of those are in the Midwest. 5 of those cases in just one state were linked to a wedding.

While the variant hasn't yet been detected in Illinois, the state reported 42,559 new COVID cases since Nov. 26, and Illinois' seven-day positivity rate on all tests increased to 5.6% last week.

Plus, whether or not its safe to take Tylenol or Ibuprofen after getting your COVID booster shot.

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

Chicago Health Officials Expect to Detect Omicron COVID Variant ‘Within Days'

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference Sunday that omicron is likely already in the city, and should be officially detected in coming days.

"We have not yet detected the omicron variant here in Chicago or here in Illinois," Arwady said. "But I do expect that to happen likely within a number of days. There are multiple examples of case investigation going on right now, where we know that there are people who have been exposed to the omicron variant, that we are doing aggressive case investigation, testing and contact tracing on."

Based on the latest data, Arwady said omicron appears to be twice as contagious the delta COVID variant, which is already causing a surge throughout Chicago and much of the Midwest.

Read more here.

Chicagoans Who Attended NYC Anime Convention Should Be Tested for COVID, Officials Say

Chicago health officials on Friday urged those who attended an anime convention in New York City last month to be tested for COVID-19, after the omicron variant was detected in a man who went.

In a tweet, the Chicago Department of Public health said all city residents who attended the Anime NYC 2021 conference at the Javits Center should consider getting tested for the coronavirus.

"Chicagoans, if you attended the @animenyc conference at the Javits Center in November, consider getting tested for COVID-19 and, crucially, stay away from others (isolate) if you test positive," the tweet read.

Read more here.

As Omicron Spreads Across Midwest, Chicago Teachers Concerned Over Rising COVID Cases in Classrooms

Chicago teachers are on are on high alert regarding COVID-19 and the omicron variant, and the Chicago Teachers Union is planning to address concerns in a Monday press conference.

Last week, Chicago Public Schools said just fewer than half of CPS students aged 12 were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 despite becoming eligible last spring.

And only 12.6 percent of students 5-11 have received at least one shot, meaning meaning far fewer students in that age group are fully vaccinated.

In August, Chicago Public Schools announced it would require COVID vaccinations for all employees. Currently, more than 90% of the district's staff have completed their vaccine series. CPS is still working on scaling up its voluntary testing program, CEO Pedro Martinez said.

At Carnegie Elementary in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, COVID cases have quickly climbed with 17 cases in two weeks, a statement from the Chicago Teachers Union said, with "including breakthrough cases that have sickened fully vaccinated staff."

"School has seen over half of classes quarantined and breakthrough COVID, including one vaccinated worker who died four days after testing positive, as classrooms struggle with cleaning issues, lack of adequate ventilation, more," the statement continued.

Carnegie Elementary is overwhelmingly Black and about 75 percent low-income.

Last week in the suburbs, Oak Park River Forest High canceled all school clubs, activities and sports due to COVID-19 concerns on campus. The district said it has seen a steady rise in coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, recording a nearly 30% increase.

Read more here.

New COVID Test Rules for International Air Travel Start Monday: What to Know

Travelers flying into the United States — including American citizens returning from overseas — will face stricter COVID-19 testing protocols starting on Monday, Dec. 6.

President Joe Biden's latest measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 underscores the urgency for the White House to act ahead of winter, when the virus can spread more easily among people indoors, and since the discovery of a worrisome new variant of COVID-19.

Biden also extended the federal rule requiring passengers on planes, trains and buses to wear face masks through March 18. It was scheduled to expire in mid-January.

The administration’s moves come just days after the White House announced a ban on travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals who have been to South Africa or seven other African countries within the previous 14 days. That travel ban does not apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Read more here.

Omicron Variant in the U.S.: Where it's Been Detected, And What we Know About Each Case

So far, the omicron variant has been detected in 16 states across the country, including four in the Midwest.

Here's a breakdown, as of Monday, Dec. 6.

How to Add Your Vaccine Card to Your iPhone's Apple Wallet

More than 17.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois. And as some businesses, music venues and restaurants are shifting to requiring proof of vaccination for entry, what's the easiest and quickest way you can access your vaccine card?

If you have an iPhone, one way to do so is by adding your vaccine card to your Apple wallet.

Here's how.

At-Home COVID Tests: How Accurate Are They? And How Can You Get a Free One?

With Illinois COVID-19 cases spiking, the new omicron variant spreading across the country and winter holidays are approaching, demand for COVID testing has increased.

Free, in-person COVID-19 testing is available across the state. But many are opting for the convenience of at-home COVID tests.

However, concerns were sparked after some tests were recalled due to false-positive results — and some tests are more expensive than others (some, though, are an eligible expense for flexible savings accounts and health savings accounts).

Last week, President Biden detailed a new COVID mitigation plan requiring private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests — and make them completely free.

So how can you get a free at-home COVID test? And how accurate are they?

Here's what you should know.

Can you take Tylenol or Ibuprofen After Getting a COVID Booster? What About Drinking Alcohol? Here's What a Doctor Says

Patients have been asking about whether or not they can consume alcoholic beverages after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine since the onset of the pandemic.

The answer, according to an Illinois doctor with Cook County Health, is yes, but there's a catch.

"It's a great question. The simple, short answer is yes," Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine for Cook County Health, told NBC Chicago in May. "There's no prohibition against drinking alcohol. It wasn't specifically studied and there's an assumption that some, you know, an average number of people in the study did use alcohol during the study, but it wasn't specifically measured."

As for over-the-counter medications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people talk to their doctors about taking over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort after getting vaccinated. 

According to the CDC, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID boosters are the same dosage as the first round of shots. Moderna, however, is half the dose of the vaccine used in the initial series.

The CDC does not recommend, however, that people take such over-the-counter medications or antihistamines to prevent side effects prior to receiving the coronavirus vaccine or booster shot.

Read more here.

Prior COVID Infection Does Not Protect Patients from Omicron Variant, Chicago-Area Doctor Says

As the COVID-19 omicron variant continues to pop up across the U.S., health officials are working to determine whether a prior coronavirus infection or vaccine series will protect from the virus.

Dr. Richard Novak, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Illinois at Chicago, warned that people who contracted COVID in the past are likely not protected from the omicron variant.

"New reports from south Africa today suggest prior infection provides no protection from this variant," Novak said. "It is able to evade the immune response."

Because antibodies created from the coronavirus may not protect people, Novak, along with other health officials are urging vaccinations.

"I think this is a wake up call for people to get vaccine and for those who are vaccinated to get their boosters," Novak said. "I think this is evidence the virus will be with us for a while or be part of the fabric of our society and we will have to continue to fight to stay one step ahead of it."

Though officials are not certain how much protection the vaccines provide against the virus, Novak said people vaccinated against COVID have experienced a milder case than those unvaccinated.

Read more here.

What a Cook County neurologist, says about 'long COVID'

From brain fog to migraines to even stroke-like symptoms, neurologists say they are seeing a number of longer-lasting neurological symptoms in patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Dr. Lakshmi Warrior, chair of neurology at Cook County Health, told NBC 5 "there's a huge spectrum" of what doctors are seeing post-COVID infection.

"Some patients might have some mild symptoms from headaches to what we call brain fog where patients just don't feel like they're thinking as clearly or like back to normal with their thinking and then other patients have more severe symptoms, even stroke and significant nerve damage," she said. "So we're really seeing a pretty wide spectrum of things."

Warrior's comments echo findings from a study from the National Institutes of Health, which reported last year that while COVID is a respiratory disease, "patients often experience neurological problems including headaches, delirium, cognitive dysfunction, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of the sense of smell."

Read more here.

Should you get a COVID booster shot now or after Omicron is detected in Illinois?

Chicago's top doctor weighed in on whether patients should receive their booster shot before or after new cases are detected in the state.

"I want people to get a booster now," said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. "Why do I want people to get a booster now? Because right now -- forget omicron -- delta [variant] is doing a job on Chicago and on the upper Midwest."

In a Facebook live event Tuesday, Arwady said that, though she can't predict what the future holds as for the spread of omicron, but she has seen that it's better to take early action than wait for a worse case scenario.

She explained that COVID vaccines should provide "some level of protection" from omicron, but booster shots would add additional support.

"I don't want people to think 'oh my god, vaccines aren't working now.' That's not what we're saying here," Arwady said. "But we're saying that with this potential new variant, we could be seeing some more breakthroughs and we could be seeing some more people getting COVID again, even if, you know, even if they had COVID in the past."

"Clearly right now, getting your first and second dose is the most important thing -- the most important thing," she said.

Read more here.

Delta vs. Omicron Variant Symptoms: How New COVID Variant Might Differ From Previous Cases

While scientists and experts are still working to find answers to many unanswered questions surrounding the new omicron COVID variant, some doctors in South Africa who have treated cases said the symptoms appear to differ from what many have come to expect with the delta variant.

As the emergence of the new COVID variant omicron begins to restrict U.S. travel and raises global concerns due to its increased risk of reinfection, scientists and doctors are working to collect data around how and why this variant behaves differently than others.

So what are the symptoms of the new omicron COVID variant and the delta COVID variant?

Though health experts have said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, here's what we know so far.

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