coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Omicron Peak Warning, COVID Testing Company Sued

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Both Illinois and Chicago have apparently passed the omicron variant peak, but health officials warn the surge is not over yet.

Plus, a local COVID testing company is slammed in a recent lawsuit accusing them of "deceptive and misleading" practices.

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

What Does Omicron Peak Mean for Vaccine Mandate, COVID Restrictions?

As Chicago sees early signs of decline from the omicron surge, with officials in both the city and Illinois saying a peak has been reached, what will that mean for vaccine mandates and other COVID restrictions in the city?

Chicago's top doctor said the city will be lifting restrictions "at some point," but exactly when remains unclear and with metrics still heightened, it likely won't be soon.

"When we get back down into that sort of moderate-low risk, we will not have the vaccination requirements in place because the vaccination requirement is in place in high risk settings and that setting is especially high risk when the numbers are high, etc., etc.," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live Thursday. "However, the timing of that? I don't know yet."

Read more here.

Even as Illinois Starts to Move Past Omicron Peak, Officials Warn Public to Keep Guard Up

As Illinois begins to move past a peak in an omicron-driven surge of COVID cases, political leaders and health care workers are reminding the public to keep their guard up in an effort to continue that trend.

Both Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during press availabilities on Wednesday that the state has begun to move past the omicron peak.

While health care workers and state officials say that there is reason for cautious optimism, they are also warning that it is too early to stand down on key practices and mitigations.

Read more here.

Minnesota Attorney General Slams Local COVID Testing Company in Lawsuit, Alleging Deception and Fraud

In the midst of surging COVID-19 infections and a nationwide shortage of testing supplies, the Minnesota Attorney General’s office is accusing a St. Charles testing company and its Rolling Meadows laboratory of “deceptive and misleading” practices. 

The Minnesota AG’s office filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Center for COVID Control and Doctors Clinical Laboratory, accusing the companies of fraud, deception and false advertising.

This comes in the midst of an investigation by NBC 5 Responds and several concurrent state and federal probes - including an open investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services - into the company that has received more than $100 million from taxpayers. 

Read more here.

Hospital Chaplain Uses Army Veteran Experiences To Help Nurses During Pandemic

A local hospital chaplain is stepping up to help nurses during this relentless “pandemic war” by using the coping skills he’s learned as a U.S. Army veteran.

After months of listening to nurses describe the trauma they’re experiencing on daily 12-hour shifts, Mark Schimmelpfennig realized the need to teach these skills to frontline workers.

“That hurt, that emptiness, that weight you might be feeling that is causing some guilt, some shame; there is a cumulative effect of what you see, what you do and what you may have seen and didn’t do anything about,” he said.

The minister explained to NBC 5 that the trauma isn’t just affecting their mental state, but their physical health too.

Read more here.

Walgreens ‘Pleased to Partner' With Biden Administration in Distributing Free N95 Masks

As part of its ongoing battle to push back a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations related to the omicron variant, the Biden administration is expected to make 400 million N95 masks available for free to United States residents, and Walgreens says that it will participate in the program.

The Illinois-based company announced that it would make the masks of varying sizes available to the public, free of charge, beginning in the near future.

Read more here.

Illinois COVID Hospitalizations Peaked One Week Ago, Pritzker Says

Illinois COVID hospitalizations peaked roughly one week ago, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said while he is cautiously optimistic about a decline in metrics, the state is still facing heightened transmission.

"Over the last two years, I’ve said over and over that you don’t know when a
surge has reached its peak until you’re on the other side of it," Pritzker said during a COVID update Wednesday. "Today is our seventh day since we saw peak hospitalizations of 7,380 reported on Jan. 13 – that’s 1,145 more than the previous pandemic peak on Nov. 21."

Read more here.

Chicago Has 'Formally Passed' Omicron Peak, City's Top Doc Announces

Chicago has officially reached the peak of the omicron COVID variant, the city's top doctor announced Wednesday, though she noted the city is "a long way from being out of the woods."

"I am very, very pleased to say that we have formally passed the omicron peak here in the city of Chicago," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a COVID-19 update.

Arwady said the city is currently seeing decreases in daily case averages, test positivity rates and hospitalizations.

Read more here.

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.

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.

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.

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