coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Free COVID Test Kits by Mail, CDC Mask Metrics for the State

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

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Another round of free COVID tests from the government is set to be made available for Americans starting this week.

Plus, should you still wear a mask? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks are still recommended in a number of Illinois counties.

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

CPS to Update COVID Policy, Go Mask-Optional Beginning Next Week

With face-covering requirements lifted across Illinois, Chicago Public Schools officials say classrooms will soon switch to a mask-optional model for both students and staff.

Starting next week, CPS said its mask mandate will be lifted for all students and staff, giving parents, students and employees a choice, though the district said it will continue to encourage their use.

CPS was one of the first to require universal masking in schools, and we would not be moving to a mask- optional model unless the data and our public health experts indicated that it is safe for our school communities,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement. “We will support our staff and students as we enter this new phase in the pandemic and continue to move forward together.” 

CPS' mask mandate was part of an agreement reached between city officials and the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this year. The union called the district's decision to lift the requirement a "clear violation" of the duo's agreement.

Read more here.

How to Order Your Free COVID Tests From the Government by Mail as New Round Available

Americans can order more free COVID tests from the government by mail, even those who already received their first shipment, starting this week.

In his State of the Union remarks last week, President Joe Biden said that in addition to starting a new antiviral initiative, his administration would allow people in the U.S. to order another round of free tests from the government.

Here's what we know so far.

Masks Still Recommended in 6 Illinois Counties, According to Updated CDC Metrics

COVID-19 metrics continue to improve overall in Illinois, according to state health officials, but some counties are still listed as having high community levels of coronavirus, meaning masks are recommended.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its county-by-county community levels map Thursday, revealing metrics have improved in more than a dozen Illinois counties over the past week. A total of 21 counties were previously listed as showing high community levels, but that number has decreased to six.

According to CDC guidelines, in such areas, people are advised to wear masks in public indoor spaces, including schools, and take additional precautions if at risk for severe illness.

Read more here.

Can You Get COVID Twice? Here's What Infectious Disease Doctors Say

While COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers have improved in recent weeks, some doctors caution the pandemic still isn't over yet.

Thousands of new infections are still occurring in Illinois on a weekly basis, with more than 10,000 reported in the past week, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And even those who've had COVID-19 and recovered aren't exempt.

Read more here.

Travel and COVID: What to Know Before Planning Your Spring Break Trip

As people across the Chicago area begin to plan and take trips for spring break, it'll be beneficial to understand the latest COVID-19 protocol for traveling within and outside of the U.S.

From masking to proof of vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detail what is expected of travelers as coronavirus metrics continue to fall.

Here's what to know.

Can Dogs Get COVID? What to Know About the Virus and Pets

Can dogs, cats and other pets contract COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's possible for animals to get COVID from people, but there's a low chance of animals spreading the virus to humans.

Most animals infected with the coronavirus had close contact with people who had COVID, such as pet owners and caretakers, the CDC said online.

Reports of animals infected with COVID have been documented worldwide, specifically in companion animals, zoo animals, mink on mink farms and wild white-tailed deer in the U.S.

Read more here.

Will You Need Another Booster Shot of the COVID Vaccine? Chicago's Top Doc Weighs In

Some Americans are already being encouraged to receive a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine, but could such a recommendation be coming for the general population?

With COVID metrics on the decline and restrictions loosening across the country, some are wondering if added protection will be necessary.

Already, immunocompromised individuals are being encouraged to receive a fourth dose under new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month.

Read more here.

COVID Symptoms in Children: What to Look For as Many Await Vaccines

With some children still unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and masks coming off at several Illinois schools, many parents are wondering what symptoms they should watch for in children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children experience similar symptoms to adults, and in many cases suffer from milder illness.

"While children are as likely to get COVID-19 as adults, kids are less likely to become severely ill," the Mayo Clinic reports. "Up to 50% of children and adolescents might have COVID-19 with no symptoms. However, some children with COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe."

Here's what to look for.

Chicago Doctor Who Spoke Out About COVID Testing Site Concerns Claims Retaliation

As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to drop, serious questions remain about the pop-up testing sites that cropped up during the pandemic. Should the industry be regulated? Many say “yes.” 

Since the start of 2022, federal regulators have launched investigations into at least four COVID testing companies and their partner laboratories based in the Chicago area. One of those companies is Center for COVID Control (CCC).

CCC attributed delays with test results and other customer complaints to the Omicron surge of infections that rocked the country this past December.  

Amidst several state and federal investigations, the company announced in January that it would close down its operations for the foreseeable future.

Read more here.

CPS to Lift Mask Mandate in Schools ‘in the Near Future,' Officials Say

As face-covering requirements continue to lift throughout Illinois, Chicago Public Schools officials say classrooms are expected make masks optional for students and teachers "in the near future."

According to a statement from CPS, schools would ease COVID-19 restrictions due to the low number of positive cases across the district and declining hospitalization rates.

"The details of such a transition are in development but once final, we will communicate with students, parents, staff and community members," CPS added.

Read more here.

Another Round of Free COVID Tests From the Government Available Starting Next Week

More free COVID tests from the government will soon become available, even for those who already received their first shipment, President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union address.

In his remarks Tuesday, Biden said that in addition to starting a new antiviral initiative, his administration would allow people in the U.S. to order another round of free tests from the government.

Read more here.

What's Next for Illinois' Top Doctor? Here's What Dr. Ezike's Says Is Her New Priority After Leaving IDPH

After Tuesday's announcement that Illinois' top doctor would be leaving her position later this month, the state's Department of Public Health Director Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike detailed her next focus.

In an emotional address Tuesday, Ezike thanked Illinoisans for allowing her to lead the state through a global pandemic and said it's time for her to make her family a priority after a number of "sacrifices" the past two years.

Read more here.

COVID Infection Could Cause Erectile Dysfunction, Decreased Fertility, New Study Shows

A COVID-19 infection has the ability to reach the male genital tract, causing health problems in the penis, testicles and prostate, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine.

The study found that the coronavirus infection caused testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm count and decreased fertility in a number of subjects.

Northwestern warned that "millions" of men could be affected by the results of the study and that men previously infected with COVID should "evaluate their sexual health."

Read more here.

'She Will Go Down in the Illinois History Books': IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike Leaving Post

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike will be leaving her position later this month after serving three years in the role, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday.

Ezike will serve her last day as Illinois' top doctor on March 14. Dr. Amaal Tokars, who is currently the assistant director of IDPH, will serve as interim director as a nationwide search is launched to find a permanent replacement, according to the governor's office.

In announcing her departure, Pritzker proclaimed Tuesday Dr. Ngozi Ezike Day in Illinois, acknowledging her role in the state's fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

"No number of sleepless nights and endless days could wear down her commitment to think first and foremost of Illinois' most vulnerable," Pritzker said. "I ran for office, I ran for office. She did not. But throughout the crisis, she has stood beside me every step of the way. I am not putting it lightly when I say that she has had one of the hardest jobs in the world. There is something particularly heroic about the service of an extraordinary individual who did not seek greatness, but found it anyway."

Read more here.

5 More States, Territories Removed From Chicago Travel Advisory

Five states and territories were dropped from Chicago's travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the city's warning list down to 47 states and one territory.

The city's health department announced the District of Columbia, Nebraska, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all came off the advisory this week.

By next week, the city noted more than a dozen other locations could be removed.

Read more here.

Pritzker Issues Updated Executive Order as Mask Mandate Ends

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an updated executive order on Monday, officially ending mandatory masking in most indoor settings in the state.

According to the new order, masks will no longer be required inside of most businesses and will not be required inside of schools, but those institutions will be allowed to enact their own mask requirements at their own discretion, according to the order.

Read more here.

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