coronavirus illinois

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Remote Learning Debate, Testing Warning, Hospitalizations

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Illinois COVID hospitalizations have reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic and pediatric hospitalizations continue to rise.

At the same time, a debate of whether bringing students and teachers back to schools following the winter break is safe continues to grow in Chicago and across the state.

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

With Sore Throats Common in Omicron Cases, Should You Also Swab Your Throat to Test?

Could the omicron variant lead to a change in the way we test for COVID?

Some medical experts say that with the increase in sore throat symptoms associated with the omicron variant, adding a throat swab, in addition to nasal swabbing, could lead to more accurate test results.

"When you do the rapid tests at home, in addition to swabbing your nose, you should also swab the back of your throat because we've seen some cases where people who do the regular nasal swab test negative," Dr. Michael Daignault, an ER physician and Chief Medical Advisor for Reliant Health Services, told NBC 5 Tuesday. "But then I've had some doctor friends who started swabbing the backs of throats, and they're finding that's positive."

Read more here.

CPS to Cancel Classes Wednesday if Teachers Union Votes for Remote Learning

Chicago Public Schools classes will be canceled Wednesday if the teachers union in the city votes to switch to remote learning during a surge in COVID cases.

The district's CEO, Pedro Martinez, said during an address Tuesday that even if classes are canceled, schools will remain open for families. He noted, however, no decisions will be made until the union votes later Tuesday evening.

"I will have to cancel classes [Wednesday]," he said. "It doesn't mean that the schools will be closed. The schools will be open, but I will have to cancel classes tomorrow because I can't... I have to be responsible in knowing who's going to be showing up to the buildings. And then, we will have a plan specifically for parents that will come out tomorrow in a very timely fashion about what the path forward is."

Read more here.

When Will Omicron Peak? Chicago's Top Doctor Shares Her Predictions

As omicron COVID cases continue to surge in Chicago and Illinois, bringing case levels to their highest of the entire pandemic, many are wondering when a peak will be reached.

Chicago's top doctor offered her predictions based on data from around the globe Tuesday, but said, in short, "we don't know when omicron is going to peak."

"I've been talking to the modelers and the epidemiologists," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference Tuesday. "So in South Africa, which was the first place to really detect and see this huge surge of omicron, it took about four weeks for omicron to peak and then another couple of weeks for it to really come back down."

But, she noted, South Africa differs from many countries now experiencing the surge "in a number of ways, including high rates of infection, differing rates of vaccination, a much younger population with a median age under 30."

Read more on her predictions.

CTU Plans Vote On Whether Teachers Should Work Remotely During COVID Surge

Chicago Teachers Union leaders are slated to vote Tuesday on whether or not teachers want to work remotely during a COVID surge without Chicago Public Schools permission, a move which could effectively shut down classes as early as Wednesday.

Chicago Teachers Union leaders are slated to vote Tuesday on whether or not teachers want to work remotely during a COVID surge without Chicago Public Schools permission, a move which could effectively shut down classes as early as Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the CTU plans to call a meeting of its House of Delegates, as well as a vote with its rank-and-file members on whether they would approve working remotely.

The union told NBC 5 the move is not a walk out or a strike, but would be only until the surge subsides, with an end date tentatively slated for Jan. 18. CPS said it would continue talks with the union.

Read more here.

Compliance, Frustration on First Day of Vaccination Rule for Bars, Restaurants, Gyms

Chicago's vaccine mandate kicked in Monday at bars, restaurants and gyms and most everyone who walked into Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park was cool with showing proof they’d been inoculated against COVID-19 before sitting down to eat.

“Nobody has given us a hard time. In fact, the customers that did eat here were more appreciative than normal,” said Sean Asbra, the general manager.

“I think their mindset is: ‘I feel like if I’m eating in here we’re as safe as we can possibly be,’” he said.

Read more here.

When Could Omicron Symptoms Start After COVID Exposure?

The omicron variant has changed some of what many came to know about the coronavirus and how it spreads, but now with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some are wondering when they are most contagious and for how long after contracting the virus?

As cases of the coronavirus surge with the new omicron variant continuing to spread following the holidays, your chances of being exposed to someone with the virus have likely increased. But when might symptoms first appear following a potential exposure?

Some experts say the omicron variant has "sped up" timing for what many have come to know with COVID, including the incubation period, or the time between exposure and the start of symptoms.

"As we've seen these new variants develop - delta, now omicron - what we're seeing is everything gets sped up from a COVID perspective," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday. "It is taking less time from when someone is exposed to COVID to potentially develop infection. It is taking less time to develop symptoms, it is taking less time that someone may be infectious and it is, for many people, taking less time to recover. A lot of that is because many more people are vaccinated."

Here's what we know so far.

Pritzker, Illinois Health Officials Warn of ‘Fly-by-Night' Pop-Up COVID Testing Sites

With COVID-19 cases soaring and many testing sites overwhelmed by demand, Illinois leaders say scammers are taking advantage of residents and establishing fake pop-up testing sites.

The unauthorized testing sites may have real signs, but according to federal authorities, they can be used to take personal details, including Social Security numbers and important health information.

During a COVID-19 briefing Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state is cracking down on what he referred to "fly-by-night" testing sites, calling them an "enormous problem."

Read more here.

Illinois' Daily COVID Case Average Increased by Nearly 60% in Last 7 Days

A surge in COVID cases caused by the omicron variant has continued unabated in the state of Illinois, with the average number of new cases per day increasing by nearly 60% in the last seven days alone.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state of Illinois is now averaging 23,069 new confirmed and probable cases of the virus per day over the last seven days.

That number is the highest the state has seen during the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic, and is up significantly from Dec. 27. According to officials, the state was averaging 14,535 cases per day on that date, with the new total representing an increase of 58.7% in just one week.

Read more here.

When is the Best Time to Get Tested After COVID Exposure?

Testing demand continues to soar as the new year gets underway, but as many navigate new guidelines following holiday gatherings, when is the best time to get tested for COVID if you've been exposed?

Some experts say the omicron variant has "sped up" timing for what many have come to know with COVID.

Here's what we know so far.

COVID by the Numbers: Regional Metrics Soar as Illinois Sets Case, Hospitalization Records

Illinois continues to set records in both new COVID cases and in hospitalizations related to the virus, with the state now averaging more than 23,000 new cases per day and reporting nearly 6,300 patients in hospitals as of Monday.

Illinois health officials reported 20,866 new COVID cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s daily average to 23,069 new cases per day over the last seven days.

In the last week, the state’s average number of new cases per day has increased by more than 58%, according to IDPH data.

Read more here.

Pritzker Praises Proof-of-Vax Mandates, but Cautions They Aren't Right for All Areas

As the city of Chicago and most of suburban Cook County implement a requirement that customers at specific indoor facilities furnish a proof-of-vaccination, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised the measures, but cautioned that they may not be right for eateries across the state.

During a press conference Monday, Pritzker praised leaders for making “the tough calls” in implementing the measures, saying that they are the type of strategies that could curb a rapid surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

“I think the city and the county are doing the right thing for the people of the city and the county,” he said. “Anybody who’s willing to step up and make the tough calls….at the city level and at the county level, I applaud.”

Read more here.

COVID Hospitalizations Reach Pandemic Record in Illinois, State Data Shows

A Chicago-area health care system is dealing with record COVID-19 hospitalizations as cases surge across Illinois and nationwide. NBC 5's Kate Chappell reports.

Hospitalizations for people with COVID-19 reached a record for the entire pandemic in Illinois Monday, according to data from the state's health department, and officials fear the number will only grow at the start of the new year in wake of holiday gatherings.

As of Monday's metrics, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 6,294 people were hospitalized with coronavirus. The previous record for hospitalizations was set in November 2020, when numbers sat at 6,175 on Nov. 20.

The previous record had been set on Dec. 24, when 21,131 cases were reported, according to IDPH data.

Read more here.

Should Illinois Schools Shift to Remote Learning as COVID Soars? Here's What Pritzker Says

As the rapidly-spreading omicron variant fuels a surge in COVID-19 cases, calls have grown throughout Illinois for school districts to reinstate remote learning.

At least two Chicago-area districts - Niles Township High School District 219 and West Chicago District 33 - have shifted to online instruction, particularly due to staffing issues brought on by COVID infections and employee absences.

Despite calls from the Chicago Teachers Union and some parents, Chicago Public Schools welcomed students back to the classroom from winter break Monday, saying its COVID policies will ensure safety among students, faculty and staff.

Statewide there are no plans to reinstate online learning as the decision is typically made at a school district level.

Read more here.

Booster Shots and Omicron: What to Know About Efficacy, Eligibility and More

The omicron variant has led to an expansion of booster shots in the U.S. as the country navigates its latest surge in the coronavirus pandemic.

With children as young as 12 expected to soon be eligible for the added dose, what do we know about booster shot efficacy, safety and more, particularly surrounding the omicron variant?

Here's what we know so far.

Proof of COVID Vaccination Now Required for Some Indoor Spaces in Chicago, Cook County

A new vaccine requirement for certain indoor spaces takes effect in Chicago and many surrounding suburbs Monday, requiring proof of full COVID vaccination in places like restaurants, bars, gyms and more.

As the new requirements take effect for many, where will you need to have your vaccine records handy?

Here's a breakdown.

Thousands of COVID Tests ‘Invalid' as CPS Prepares to Return From Winter Break

Thousands of COVID tests for Chicago Public Schools students and staff members have been deemed "invalid" as the district prepares for a return to classrooms following the winter break.

With cases across the state and within the district surging, CPS reported 35,590 tests were completed between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, but 24,843 were ruled "invalid," according to data posted on the district's website.

According to the Chicago Teachers Union, many parents received emails from the company handling the tests saying some samples were deemed "unsatisfactory" after being delayed in transit to the lab because of holiday shipping issues and weather. 

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.

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