coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Omicron and Kids, NYE Warning, Expert on New CDC Guidance

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Pediatric hospitalizations are rising in several states alongside surges in COVID cases drive by the new omicron variant, but Illinois is among five states seeing hospitalizations rise most, a new analysis found.

Health officials say they are watching the metrics closely as officials urge caution ahead of New Year's Eve parties and gatherings.

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

Illinois Driver Services Facilities to Close in Early January Due to Increased COVID Cases

Illinois driver services facilities and Secretary of State departments will close for the first half of January due to increased COVID-19 cases statewide, Secretary of State Jesse White announced Wednesday.

The offices will not conduct in-person transactions from Jan. 3 through Jan. 17, 2022, though online services will remain open on the Illinois Secretary of State website, officials said.

“After careful consideration and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to close all Driver Services facilities beginning Jan. 3, 2022, through Jan. 17, 2022, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases,” White said. “The health and safety of employees and the public remains paramount, and face-to-face transactions potentially increase the further spread of the virus. Our goal is to safely reopen all offices and Driver Services facilities on January 18 for face-to-face transactions.”

Read more here.

Sore Throat? Runny Nose? The Common Omicron Symptoms to Know About

Breakthrough infections of the coronavirus are increasing in Chicago and Illinois, but health experts say it's likely that the symptoms you experience will depend on the vaccine.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the city's top doctor, said the omicron variant isn't necessarily bringing with it a new set of symptoms, but with vaccines now widely available, many are experiencing milder cases, depending on their vaccination status.

"The symptoms that we're seeing are not different with omicron than they were with delta, than they were with the original. It's just that we are seeing more what we call breakthrough infections," Arwady said Wednesday. "So the vaccines continue to protect, but not as well against infection, although they continue to protect beautifully against severe illness."

Read more here.

Deadline to Return CPS COVID Test Kits Extended After Reports of Overflowing Drop Boxes

The deadline for parents to return COVID test kits for Chicago Public Schools students during the winter break has been extended at some locations after parents and the city's teachers union reported overflowing drop boxes Tuesday.

CPS announced Tuesday that it added an additional drop-off location for families and extended the deadline to return test kits at designated libraries to 5 p.m. Thursday.

Read more here.

Chicago Expert Breaks Down New CDC Isolation Guidelines Amid Omicron-Driven COVID Surge

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidelines on isolation for symptom-free COVID patients and for those exposed to the virus, prompting many experts and residents to question the decision and to urge those who have tested positive for COVID to remain cautious.

Dr. Emily Landon of UChicago Medicine was asked to break down the new guidelines for NBC 5, and to explain the steps that residents need to take when adhering to the rules.

Here's what she said.

USPS Workers Express Concern Over COVID Cases in Chicago Post Offices

Workers at some Chicago area post offices are expressing concerns about COVID cases at various locations, saying that they worry that the infections could hamper mail delivery and lead to workers coming to work sick.

Mack Julian, who represents more than 3,500 letter carriers in the city, says that two workers have died from COVID in the last two months. He says that contact tracing has been lacking in USPS facilities in the city, and that COVID cases are posing challenges to mail service in the city.

Read more here.

Vaccine Efficacy: Data Shows How Shots Protect Against Omicron COVID Variant

As the omicron COVID-19 variant continues to surge throughout the U.S., more people are asking how well the vaccines protect against the new strain.

As of last week, omicron likely accounted for 90% of COVID cases in areas like the Midwest, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In Illinois, the department of public health reported 177 omicron cases on Tuesday, which is up from the 71 reported last week and 17 earlier that same week.

But how well will the vaccine protect you from contracting the new strain? Here's what we know.

Illinois Among 5 States Where Pediatric Hospitalizations Are Rising Most: Analysis

Pediatric hospitalizations are rising across several states in the U.S., but there are five states in particular that are making up a majority of the increases and Illinois is one of them, according to an NBC News analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data.

The analysis found that in nearly a dozen states, the number of kids hospitalized with COVID has more than doubled since Nov. 29. But five states have reportedly contributed the most to the rise in the U.S.: Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

The vaccination status of the children in many of these cases was not immediately known.

Read more here.

Chicago Travel Advisory Jumps to 48 States, 3 Territories Days Before NYE

With the holiday travel rush continuing despite complications from the surging omicron variant, Chicago has added two more states and one territory to its travel advisory ahead of the New Year.

Louisiana and South Carolina, along with the Virgin Islands, were added to the city's warning list Tuesday.

That means that, as of Tuesday, every state or territory except for Guam and Montana are on the advisory.

Read more here.

Omicron Symptoms: What to Watch for and How They May Differ Based on Vaccine Status

With omicron now the dominant strain in the U.S. and cases rapidly rising across Illinois and the country, experts say there are some symptoms that appear prominent with the new COVID variant and differ from what many came to expect with the delta variant.

Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News last week that a cough, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant. But unlike delta, many patients are not losing their taste or smell.

But some experts suggest the symptoms could depend on vaccination status and underlying health conditions.

Read more here.

‘Omicron and Delta Are Coming to Your Party:' Pritzker, Ezike Urge COVID Precautions at New Year's Celebrations

Surging coronavirus cases brought on by the delta and omicron variants have put a damper on New Year's celebrations across the globe, forcing many to be cancelled or scaled back.

Overall, health officials assert that cancelling celebrations is the safest way to protect one's self and others from the newest variants. But with the pandemic causing disruptions for another year and people eager to celebrate, leaders in Illinois realize not everyone may take that route.

Speaking at a coronavirus briefing Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered a blunt message in hope of persuading residents to say home: "Omicron and delta are coming to your party," the governor said, as he urged people to take care and think twice about taking part in large gatherings.

Read more here.

Illinois Hospital Leaders Issue Plea as COVID Overwhelms Staff

Leaders of Illinois' hospital systems say their doctors, nurses and other employees are simply tired and worn out as the pandemic nears two years with no immediate end in sight.

Executives at three hospital systems joined Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a news conference Monday where they pleaded for residents to get vaccinated and also provided a picture of the dire situations at facilities across the state.

Read more here.

Can At-Home COVID Tests Detect the Omicron Variant? Here's What the FDA and Researchers Say

With a soaring number of COVID cases and testing sites seeing high demand, at-home tests have often become the more convenient option.

But some doctors, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor and the top U.S. infectious disease expert, have cautioned that not all at-home antigen tests may be able to adequately detect the omicron variant.

Read more here.

Updated CDC Guidelines for COVID Exposure: Timeline, Quarantine, Contagious Period

What steps should you take if someone you have been in close contact with tests positive for coronavirus? How long are you contagious, what are the quarantine guidelines and when is it safe to see people again?

U.S. health officials on Monday cut isolation restrictions for Americans who catch the coronavirus, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

The change is aimed at people who are not experiencing symptoms. People with symptoms during isolation, or who develop symptoms during quarantine, are encouraged to stay home.

Here's the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what to do if you test positive or believe you were exposed to someone who has.

Illinois Seeing Highest Surge in COVID Cases Since Pandemic Began, Top Doc Says

Dr. Ngozi Ezike delivers a COVID update for Illinois as omicron variant cases continue to spread across the state.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the expansion of COVID vaccination resources and increased staffing at testing sites Monday as the state's top doctor revealed Illinois is experiencing its highest surge in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Delivering a coronavirus update, the governor asserted the "pandemic has brought a grave threat to our state," saying he'll do "everything possible" to protect all of Illinois' residents - regardless of their vaccination status.

With more cases occurring due to outbreaks of the delta and omicron variants, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Illinois is reporting the highest surge in cases from across the entire pandemic.

Read more here.

Walgreens Apologizes After ‘Temporary Outage' of Vaccine, Testing Scheduler

Walgreens said a "temporary outage" affected its vaccine and testing appointment scheduler Monday as the company reports "unprecedented demand" for testing and vaccinations during the holidays.

"Today we experienced a temporary outage of some of our web applications, including the appointment scheduler for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing," the company said in a statement Monday afternoon. "The issue has now been fixed, and we apologize to our customers and patients for any inconvenience."

Earlier in the day, users reported being placed in a "virtual waiting room" while attempting to book appointments via the Illinois-based pharmacy chain's website. The issues appeared again Monday afternoon.

Read more here.

Illinois' Top Doctor Addresses Rising Pediatric Hospitalizations Amid COVID Surge

Across the U.S., some states are reporting an increase in pediatric hospitalizations as the new omicron variant continues to spread and Illinois' top doctor said the state is watching such numbers very closely.

"So, we have seen that [increase] in some other states very clearly," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Monday. "We're still looking at our numbers. I have anecdotally talked to many pediatricians who are heads of departments or hospitals who are seeing that there is an increase, so we are going to continue to follow those numbers."

The New York State Department of Health issued a warning Friday of a “striking increase” in new hospital admissions for children — particularly of unvaccinated children — amid spiraling coronavirus outbreak numbers in the state.

Read more here.

NHL Postpones Blackhawks-Jets Game in Winnipeg

The NHL announced that Wednesday's Blackhawks game against the Winnipeg Jets has been postponed for COVID-19-related reasons. 

The news comes less than 17 hours after Tuesday's contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets was postponed.

The Blackhawks, who have had three consecutive postponements, placed Marc-Andre Fleury in COVID protocol on Monday just before practice. Calvin de Haan was removed from the list, which means Fleury is the lone Chicago player in protocol.

Read more here.

Illinois to Hold Booster Clinics, Increase Testing and Hospital Staffing Amid Surge in COVID Cases

In delivering his first COVID update since the omicron variant first arrived in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said the state is taking new measures to address surging cases and hospitalizations and a heightened demand for testing after the Christmas holiday and ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations.

Pritzker announced that the state will soon increase access to both testing and booster shots in an effort to combat the increased spread across the state, as well as providing staffing assistance to hospitals in need.

“I’m announcing this surge staffing to support our local health departments to vaccinate and boost tens of thousands more Illinoisans,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We are also increasing testing and continuing to distribute monoclonal antibodies, anti-viral pills and any treatments or personal protective equipment communities need."

Read more here.

Here's Where Vaccine Proof Will Be Required in Chicago Next Year

Beginning Jan. 3, Chicago will require proof of vaccination for many indoor public spaces as the city works to combat what officials are calling "the biggest COVID surge that we have seen since before vaccines were available."

Here are the places where vaccine proof will be required - and where it won't.

Swollen Lymph Nodes After COVID Booster Shot? Here's What Experts Say That Means

Have you experienced a swollen lymph node in the arm where you received your COVID vaccine or booster shot?

You're not alone.

In fact, while you may not have experienced it with your initial doses of the vaccine, there's still a chance you could see it following a booster shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine side effect is actually more common with booster shots or additional doses than it is with initial doses of the COVID vaccines.

But the CDC said it is not a side effect to worry about.

Here's why.

Booster Shots and Omicron: Is Moderna or Pfizer Performing Better? Here's the Data So Far

Both Moderna and Pfizer have released early data showing the effectiveness of their vaccines and booster doses as the new omicron variant begins to take hold and as COVID cases rise across the U.S.

But is one performing better than the other?

Here's what we know so far.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady on Tuesday gave a breakdown on which COVID-19 variant is currently leading the surge in the Midwest. While 99.9% of the COVID cases are of delta variant as of now, she predicted that the omicron variant will soon spread quickly based on the studies from other countries.

Omicron Severity, Symptoms, Risk of Breakthrough Cases: What We Know So Far

Experts had been saying that more information on the omicron variant was expected in the weeks following its detection.

Now, about a month since the new COVID variant was identified in South Africa and two weeks since it was first recorded in the U.S., what do we know?

Chicago's top doctor said that while we are still learning about the variant and research continues to develop, an early look at the latest data has led to some findings so far.

Here's a breakdown of what we know.

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