All of Illinois is now experiencing "high transmission" rates or coronavirus, according to data from the state's health department.
Plus, both Illinois and Indiana are among six states currently making up more than half of all recent COVID hospitalizations in the U.S.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
CDC, FDA Expand Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Booster for 16- and 17-Year-Olds
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The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters, ruling that 16- and 17-year-olds can get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.
The U.S. and many other nations already were urging adults to get booster shots to pump up immunity that can wane months after vaccination, calls that intensified with the discovery of the worrisome new omicron variant.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to get a third dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech -- if it’s been six months since their last shot. The CDC soon followed by also expanding its Pfizer/BioNTech booster recommendation for the same ages.
Read more here.
COVID by the Numbers: All 102 Illinois Counties Experiencing ‘High Transmission' Rates of Coronavirus
All 102 counties in the state of Illinois are currently experiencing “high transmission” levels of COVID-19, while many are also experiencing dramatic growth in other metrics designed to illustrate how rapidly the virus is spreading.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a county to have a “high transmission” rate of COVID if 100 or more residents per 100,000 individuals have contracted the virus in a given week.
Currently, all 102 of Illinois’ counties have hit that threshold, according to the latest data from IDPH and the CDC, and no state is currently lower than 208 cases per 100,000 residents.
Read more here.
Which Vaccine is Best for You? What to Know as Omicron Spreads, Boosters Increase
From effectiveness against the omicron variant to booster shots and more, how do the COVID vaccines compare to each other and which is best for you?
There are various reasons why someone might choose a particular vaccine, but according to medical experts, the most important thing is getting vaccinated and getting a booster dose.
"The big difference is not which vaccine, it's vaccinated or not vaccinated," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook Live Tuesday. "So I hope if there are people who've been waiting, but are now worried with omicron, you know, now definitely is the time."
Still, it's a question many ask as they prepare for their vaccination.
According to medical experts, the three vaccines currently available in the U.S. each offer protection against COVID.
Here's a breakdown of what we know so far about each vaccine.
Illinois, Indiana Among 6 States Making Up More Than Half Recent US COVID Hospitalizations: Report
Illinois and Indiana are among the six states that have accounted for more than half of the United States' recent COVID-19 hospitalizations, a new report shows.
Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York round out the list of six states, which made up 60 percent of added hospital beds, according to an NBC News analysis of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.
Data recorded between Nov. 10 and Dec. 5 showed Illinois added 1,187 COVID hospitalizations and Indiana added 1,095.
Read more here.
Pfizer Says Early Data Shows Booster Dose of Vaccine Protects Against Omicron Variant
A booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide strong protection against the omicron variant, the companies announced Wednesday.
They said a third dose of their vaccine provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to omicron, comparable to two doses against the original coronavirus and other variants that have emerged.
Blood samples from those who received only the primary series of the vaccine, on average, did see a 25-fold drop in antibodies against the new variant, indicating that two doses of the vaccine may not be sufficient to protect against infection with omicron.
The companies said the results are preliminary. The findings were detailed in a press release, and the full data have not yet been made available for other scientists to scrutinize.
Read more here.
What to Expect Now That Omicron Variant is in Chicago, According to City's Top Doc
Chicago health officials announced the city's first confirmed case of the omicron variant Tuesday, so what could that mean for residents and what could happen next?
Just before the announcement of the variant's first city case, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady laid out the city's plan during a Facebook Live saying the question was not when the variant would be detected, but rather "the question is our response."
Omicron in Chicago and Illinois: What We Know About City's First Case of New Variant
Illinois' first confirmed case of the omicron variant was announced Tuesday after being identified in a Chicago resident.
How was the resident exposed and what do we know so far about the case?
Chicago Could Start Requiring Proof of COVID Vaccination in Public Places, City's Top Doc Says
As the highly mutated omicron COVID-19 variant continues to spread across the U.S., Chicago health officials say the city could start requiring proof of vaccination status in public places.
In a Facebook Live event Tuesday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said some private establishments have already begun requiring proof of vaccination, and the city may follow.
"Might we begin requiring proof of vaccination for more activities in public spaces? Yes, I think we might," Arwady said. "I certainly am more interested in that than I am in needing to do some of the major shut downs."
Read more here.
What are the Side Effects of the Pfizer, Moderna COVID Booster Shots?
With the emergence of the rapidly spreading omicron variant, COVID-19 booster shots are now strongly recommended by not only Chicago and Illinois health officials, but by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well.
"Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot ... when they are six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in November.
"The recent emergence of the omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19," she added.
The World Health Organization echoes that sentiment, saying the omicron variant is highly contagious, and that "preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection."
Here's what the CDC says about side effects of each booster shot currently available.
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.
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?
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.