coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Mass Vaccination Sites Reopen, Free At-Home COVID Tests

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A number of mass vaccination sites are set to reopen this week in Chicago suburbs as health officials look to curb rising COVID cases.

At the same time, a website set up by the government to offer millions of free at-home COVID tests to Americans will soon accept orders.

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

Federal Website for Free At-Home COVID Tests Set for Full Launch, but Some Concerns Remain

The federal government conducted a soft launch of a website designed to give Americans access to free at-home COVID tests, with an eye toward the full launch coming on Wednesday.

The free tests are part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to provide Americans with access to up to half-a-billion COVID tests in the new year, with each household eligible to receive four free tests through the United States Postal Service’s special website.

“Bottom line, this winter, you will be able to get tests for free in the comfort of your home, with peace of mind,” the president said.

The soft launch of the site came as a surprise to many on Tuesday, but many residents were able to access the tests.

According to the federal government, contracts for up to one billion tests will be awarded in a joint effort between the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We see that there’s been enormous demand, and we are trying to keep up with that demand,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, senior advisor to the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team, said.

COVID by the Numbers: Average Cases, Hospitalizations Decline in Illinois

Illinois health officials reported more than 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, but there are more signs that the state could be moving past a peak in cases caused by the omicron surge.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were 20,483 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 reported in the last 24 hours statewide.

With the data now released from over the holiday weekend, the state is averaging 27,795 new cases of COVID per day, a 14.4% reduction from the high watermark of 32,501 daily cases that was established on Jan. 12, according to IDPH data.

In all, 2,682,983 total cases of the virus have been reported during the pandemic.

Can You Get Omicron More Than Once? Chicago's Top Doctor Answers

With the omicron variant leading to increased infections in people who previously had COVID-19, is it possible that someone who has an omicron case now could contract the same strain of the virus again?

The answer isn't exactly clear yet, according to public health experts.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said such information remains to be seen.

Read more here.

Website for Free COVID Tests From Government Launches Early at ‘Limited Capacity'

Free at-home rapid COVID test kits were slated to be available for order through a government website starting Wednesday, but many users reported being able to place their orders late Tuesday morning.

A White House spokesperson confirmed the site was launched in a "beta phase" Tuesday and was "operating at limited capacity ahead of its official launch," which remains scheduled for Wednesday.

"This is standard practice to address troubleshooting and ensure as smooth of an official launch tomorrow as possible," the spokesperson told NBC News. "We expect the website to officially launch mid-morning tomorrow."

Here's what to know about the website and how you can order your tests.

Cook County Mass Vaccination Sites to Reopen This Week

In an effort to curb the rise in COVID-19 infections brought on by the current omicron surge, three large mass vaccination sites in Cook County are set to open in the coming days.

County officials closed the remaining mass vaccination sites in July, citing a change in strategy due to a sharp decline in attendance. Instead, health officials implemented a hyperlocal model, organizing clinics at festivals and other community gatherings.

In a news release Monday, Cook County Health announced the reopening of vaccination sites in Des Plaines, Forest Park and Matteson "to provide increased access to vaccinations during this surge."

Details on which shots you can get and when.

Booster Shots and Omicron: Side Effects, Eligibility and More

The omicron variant has led to a heightened push for booster shots around the country, with more ages becoming eligible and some groups now able to get their extra dose sooner than others.

Across Illinois, booster shot clinics have been sprouting up in recent weeks, including in several Chicago-area suburbs over the weekend. Mass vaccination sites are reopening in a number of Cook County suburbs this week, offering booster shots as well as initial doses.

But what do we know about booster shot efficacy, side effects and more, particularly surrounding the omicron variant?

Here's what we know so far.

You Can Order Free COVID Tests From the Government Later This Week. Here's How

Starting this week, free at-home rapid COVID tests will be available for order through a government website. But how many can you get, when will they arrive and which tests are available?

Here's a breakdown of what to expect.

Omicron, Flu, Allergies: How Can You Tell the Difference in Symptoms?

If you're wondering whether that runny nose, sore throat or sneeze is simply allergies, just a cold, or possibly early signs of COVID-19 or the flu, you're not alone.

With many experiencing cold-like symptoms, and with COVID and flu cases rising this winter, it can be hard to decipher what could be behind the onset of symptoms.

Experts say the only real way to know the answer is to test, but until then, health officials say to treat any possible symptoms as COVID.

"If you think it's a cold, if you think it's the flu, it's probably COVID," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference late last month. "We need you to stay home if you're not feeling well."

Read more here.

Do You Need a Vaccine to Fly? CDC Air Travel Guidelines and What Else to Know

As the omicron variant surges, questions are swirling online about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel guidance, specifically regarding testing and vaccines.

Specific requirements and guidelines largely depend on where you're located and where you're heading.

Here's what you need to know.

Ex-Chicago Alderman Seeks Prison Release Over COVID Concerns

A former Chicago alderman convicted of tax evasion has sought an early release from prison due to his age, medical conditions and the omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge.

Attorneys for Edward Vrdolyak filed an emergency petition Friday, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Attorneys said the 84-year-old suffers from medical conditions including dementia and has a compromised immune system that would put him at higher risk for severe illness or death.

Read more here.

Chicago Cites Restaurants, Gyms for COVID Vaccine Violations

Chicago officials have handed out more than 30 citations to businesses for failing to enforce the city's requirement that people show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in many places.

The order took effect Jan. 3, and through Wednesday, the city's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection agency had issued 32 citations to 16 businesses.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the businesses include restaurants, fitness centers, a swim school and a children's play space.

Read more here.

Is Dizziness a Symptom of COVID-19? What to Know

COVID-19 can cause a vast number of symptoms with fever, cough and fatigue among those most often reported.

But less common symptoms, such as dizziness, are also important to be aware of.

"Countless studies" from various parts of the world have revealed that dizziness has occurred as the result of COVID infections, according to an article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

The doctors who authored the article say the findings aren't surprising as dizziness has historically been associated with viral infections.

Read more here.

Here's What You Should Do After a Positive COVID Test, According to the CDC

As the omicron variant continues to drive COVID case numbers upward, some individuals may be faced with the prospect of testing positive for coronavirus for the first time, and may not know what to do if that diagnosis comes.

In the state of Illinois, there have been nearly 2.6 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the last two years, and the last month has seen the highest case numbers of the entire pandemic in the state.

Fortunately, most cases of COVID-19 end up producing mild symptoms, and there are a series of steps that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you take if you test positive for the virus.

Read more here.

What If You Test Positive for COVID After Quarantining? Here's What the CDC Says to Do

If you test positive for COVID-19 after quarantining and no longer showing symptoms, do you still have to remain in isolation?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person is encouraged, but not required to take a coronavirus test after quarantining for five days post-diagnosis.

After five full days, a person can end the isolation period should they be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved, the CDC wrote online.

Read more here.

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