coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: First US Omicron Case Confirmed, Chicago Doctor Details Long COVID

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The first U.S. case of the omicron COVID variant was identified Wednesday, in a vaccinated traveler who returned to California after a trip to South Africa.

Following that announcement, the Illinois Department of Public Health said "We knew it was only a matter of time before the omicron variant was identified in the U.S. and we anticipate there will be cases in Illinois."

Plus, President Joe Biden is expected today to launch a more urgent campaign against COVID that includes free-at-home testing and stricter travel rules.

And a Cook County neurologist details what symptoms of 'long COVID' look like.

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

Illinois Reports More Than 11K New COVID Cases, Record-Setting Number of Tests in Last 24 Hours

The state of Illinois reported more than 11,000 new confirmed and probable COVID cases on Thursday afternoon, with the spike in cases coming as the state posted the results of nearly a quarter of a million new COVID tests.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s COVID data tracker, the state reported 11,524 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID on Thursday, the most the state had seen in a single day since Dec. 1, 2020.

An IDPH spokesperson says that the new case numbers could potentially be linked to holiday gatherings and travel.  

“While we are also reporting a record high number of tests across the entire pandemic, our test positivity rate is also high,” the spokesperson told NBC 5. “Thanksgiving was one week ago, and we are starting to see cases associated with family gatherings and travel.”

The last time the state saw a single-day increase of this magnitude in new cases came on Dec. 1, 2020, when 12,542 new cases of the virus were reported.

Read more here.

Where Does Illinois' Mask Mandate Stand as Midwest Detects First Omicron COVID Variant?

As the coronavirus surges throughout the Midwest and cases of the omicron variant have begun appearing nationwide, what's the latest status of Illinois' mask mandate?

The latest Illinois COVID-19 guidance requires that all residents where a face covering while inside public places, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he doesn't see that changing given the most recent metrics.

"We have an indoor mask requirement in the state of Illinois and so we're not lifting that, especially now," Pritzker said. "When I want to lift [the mandate] is when we start seeing hospitalizations plunge, considering that's a particular problem."

Read more here.

First Midwest Case of COVID Omicron Variant Confirmed in Minnesota

The first Midwest case of the omicron COVID variant has been confirmed in Minnesota, the state's health department said Thursday, via a specimen from a resident "with recent travel history to New York City."

The omicron variant was found through the health department's variant surveillance program, health officials said.

The person with the variant, according to Minnesota's health department, is an adult male resident of Hennepin County who had been vaccinated. His symptoms "have resolved."

According to health officials, the person developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and was tested for COVID on Nov. 24. He reported traveling to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention from Nov. 19-21 at the Javits Center.

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.

By the numbers: COVID metrics in Illinois' 11 health care regions

The state of Illinois is seeing increases in its case numbers and hospitalizations, and current data from the Department of Public Health suggests that there isn’t just one specific area of the state that is driving those surges.

In fact, several regions in the state are seeing COVID numbers that would have previously triggered additional COVID mitigations, including Region 1, located in the northwestern corner of the state. There, the positivity rate has risen to 9.3% in recent days, the highest number in the state, and the availability of ICU beds has remained under the 20% threshold for 29 consecutive days, currently sitting at 14%, according to IDPH data.

Under previous IDPH rules, any region with positivity rates in excess of 8%, ICU bed availability below 20%, or increasing hospitalizations would have been subjected to more stringent mitigation rules.

Region 6, located in the eastern portion of the state and including Champaign County, is approaching the 8% threshold for positivity rates, sitting at 7.5%. They’ve also seen recent decreases in ICU bed availability and rapid increases in COVID hospitalizations over the last month, according to IDPH data.

Read more here.

COVID cases, hospitalizations are spiking again in Illinois and Indiana

After a brief downturn in case numbers during the Thanksgiving holiday, the number of COVID cases in Illinois and Indiana are once again on an upward trend, continuing surges that began in late October.

That surge in new COVID diagnoses came following a long downward trend in numbers following the worst of the delta variant-driven uptick in cases during the summer.

On Nov. 24, Illinois hit its highest number of daily COVID cases since the absolute worst of the pandemic last fall, averaging 4,628 new cases per day over a seven-day period, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Following that date, new case numbers dipped quickly, likely due to the Thanksgiving holiday. On Nov. 27, just three days after hitting a new high, cases were below 4,000 new cases per day, but in the days since the number has gone right back up, rebounding to 4,442 new cases of coronavirus per day as of Wednesday.

And Wednesday Dec. 1, Gary Indiana's Mayor and Deputy Mayor announced they both tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more here.

Biden to launch winter COVID plan with free-at-home tests and stricter travel rules

President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions.

The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests, and a tightening of travel requirements for those entering the U.S.

The administration will now require all in-bound international passengers to test for COVID within 24 hours of departure, and is extending its mask requirement on all domestic flights and public transportation through March 18.

Biden said Wednesday that the forthcoming strategy, to be unveiled during a speech Thursday at the National Institutes of Health, would fight the virus “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”

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.

Fewer Than 13% of CPS Students Under 12 Vaccinated So Far, Officials Say

Just less than half of CPS students aged 12 and up have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 despite becoming eligible last spring, officials said Tuesday. And only 12.6% of younger students in the 5-11 age group approved for shots this month have received at least one jab, meaning far fewer are fully vaccinated. More than 90% of staff have completed their vaccine series.

The district saw an uptick in reported cases and children quarantined leading up to Thanksgiving. There were 71 student infections reported Nov. 15, matching a single-day high since the start of the school year. In all, the week before Thanksgiving saw 367 students and 98 adults test positive. Those figures remain an extremely low fraction of the 330,000-student district.

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.

United Airlines Monitoring Omicron Variant-Driven Restrictions, but Hasn't Adjusted Schedules

Officials with United Airlines say that new travel restrictions imposed on flights to several African nations have not yet led to any adjustments to the airline’s schedule, with the company set to operate new flights to those countries in coming days.

In recent days, President Joe Biden announced new restrictions on travel from several African countries as a result of the emergence of the omicron COVID variant. As of Monday, the U.S. will reinstitute a ban on travel for foreign nationals from a total of eight countries, including South Africa.

United States citizens and lawful permanent residents will be exempt from the Level 4 travel restriction, according to the State Department.

In a statement to NBC 5, United Airlines says that it is monitoring how the new travel restrictions will impact demand for flights, but says that it has not made any adjustments to its schedule.

Read more here.

Omicron: What Is the Difference Between ‘Variant of Interest' Vs. ‘Variant of Concern?'

As the World Health Organization announces that omircon has been classified as a "variant of concern," many are asking about the difference between this categorization and a "variant of interest."

WHO Health Emergencies Programme COVID-19 Technical Lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said early evidence on omicron, known by the technical term B.1.1.529, shows that the variant has a large number of mutations, some of which have concerning characteristics.

Omicron has also shown to have an increased risk of reinfection compared to other highly transmissible variants, indicating that people who contracted COVID and recovered could be more subject to catching it again with this variant.

Read more here.

How Accurate Are At-Home COVID Tests? What to Know After Thanksgiving Gatherings

After spending time close with family and friends at Thanksgiving gatherings last week, more people are searching for ways to easily test for a COVID-19 infection at home.

But how accurate are the at-home coronavirus tests?

There are a number of at-home options now available, the most recent of which received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration last month. Concerns were sparked, however, after some tests were recalled due to false-positive results.

Here's what you should know.