U.S. health authorities are recommending an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans eight months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot.
Meanwhile, every county in Illinois is seeing "substantial" or "high" community transmission of COVID-19, placing the entire state in the category in which everyone over the age of 2 should resume wearing a mask indoors.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
US Announces Plan to Offer COVID Booster Shots for All Americans
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U.S. health authorities are recommending an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans eight months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot in order to gain longer-lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.
The move is being driven by both the highly contagious variant and preliminary evidence that suggests the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.
In a joint statement, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health and medical experts announced plans, pending formal FDA approval of a third dose, to begin administering booster shots widely.
"We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose," the statement said.
The expansion will be rolled out first to those who were fully vaccinated earliest, which includes health care workers, nursing home residents and other other older people before distributing booster shots to general public.
Every Illinois County Is Seeing 'Substantial' or 'High' COVID Transmission and Should Mask Indoors, CDC Says
Every county in Illinois is seeing "substantial" or "high" community transmission of COVID-19, placing the entire state in the category in which everyone over the age of 2 should resume wearing a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, federal health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance late last month to recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing "substantial" or "high" transmission of COVID-19.
So in which areas is the CDC advising people wear masks indoors? The agency points to its COVID-19 data tracker showing levels of community transmission, along with other data, for each county in the U.S.
As of Monday, all 102 counties in Illinois were experiencing either “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission, triggering the recommendation to mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Ninety-seven counties - including every county in the Chicago area - are seeing "high" transmission while five are in the "substantial" transmission range: Putnam, Lee, Carroll, Jo Daviess and Stark, which was the last county to cross the threshold into the higher transmission levels after remaining in "moderate" transmission through Sunday.
Chicago Travel Advisory: 8 States, DC Added to List as COVID Cases Continue to Rise
Chicago on Tuesday added eight states and the District of Columbia to its travel advisory, recommending that unvaccinated people entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
The eight new states added include: Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia.
The addition brings the total number of states on the advisory to 39, along with three territories.
Indoor Mask Mandate Issued in City of Chicago, Regardless of Vaccination Status
Due to recent increases in the number of new coronavirus cases in the city, officials with the Chicago Department of Public Health have announced that a new indoor mask mandate will go into effect Friday for all residents 2 years of age and older.
According to city officials, the mandate was implemented as the average number of daily new COVID cases in the city surpassed the 400 mark this week.
Masks will be required in all indoor public settings, including bars, restaurants, gyms and private clubs, CDPH said.
Masks can be removed at restaurants, bars and other establishments while customers are eating or drinking, as well as for certain activities like beard shaves and facials, according to CDPH.
Chicago Hits 400 New COVID Cases Per Day, Which Officials Previously Called a ‘Line in the Sand'
Chicago on Monday surpassed the metric of 400 average new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed per day, a figure that city health officials warned earlier in the pandemic would mark a "line in the sand" to implement more mitigations.
Chicago was averaging 419 new COVID-19 cases per day as of Monday, according to city data. That metric was up from 347 the week before, having grown by 21% in the past week.
That figure is also more than 12 times the low of 34 that the city saw in late June, before cases began to rise again, but remains lower than the more than 700 new cases per day the city was seeing at the peak of the last surge earlier this year.
On July 19, Chicago's average daily COVID case rate was at 132, meaning the number of average new cases per day has more than tripled in the past four weeks.
While cases continue to steadily rise, other metrics have not been increasing at the same rate, city data shows.
Hospitalizations in Chicago are down 18% from last week while deaths are down 24%, per the city's data. But the positivity rate in testing is up to 4.3% this week, an increase from 3.8% last week, which was up each week since it was at 1% a month ago.
The average of 419 new cases per day recorded Monday is over the threshold of 400 that Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said just over a year ago "really marks line in the sand" to bring back restrictions to slow the pandemic's spread.
"It's the equivalent of needing to go back to a phase three, really pulling back on major activities," Arwady said in August 2020, before any of the three vaccines currently in use were available.
But Arwady said Tuesday that vaccines have changed the way the city approaches that metric of average daily case rate, taking other data into account in its evolving pandemic response.
US Expected to Recommend COVID Boosters for All 8 Months After 2nd Dose
U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.
Federal health officials have been actively looking at whether extra shots for the vaccinated would be needed as early as this fall, reviewing case numbers in the U.S. as well as the situation in other countries such as Israel, where preliminary studies suggest the vaccine’s protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.
Who Can Get COVID Booster Shots and When Can They Get Them? Here's What to Know
With COVID booster shots now approved for some people with compromised immune systems, who can get the shots and when?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel also recommended the extra shot Friday.
Eligible for a Third COVID-19 Shot? Here's Where to Get One in the Chicago Area
COVID-19 booster shots have been approved for millions of Americans who are especially vulnerable because of organ transplants, certain cancers and other disorders.
Immunocompromised patients make up roughly 2.7% of the U.S. adult population and 44% of hospitalized breakthrough infections, where someone gets infected even after they’ve been fully vaccinated. Small studies also suggest, according to the CDC, that immunocompromised people are more likely to transmit the virus to household contacts.
The CDC recommends people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional vaccine dose at least 28 days after their second dose.
Following the announcement Friday, federal health officials said booster shots "could start being administered immediately." Since then, multiple retail chains have started offering third doses nationwide, including in the Chicago area.
Illinois Senate President Recovering From ‘Breakthrough' COVID Case
Illinois Senate President Don Harmon tested positive for a “mild breakthrough” case of COVID-19 and was recovering from symptoms, his office announced Monday.
The Democrat from Oak Park was vaccinated in the spring. He began experiencing symptoms late last week, self-isolated and tested positive, according to a statement. His office said “contact tracing was implemented.”
“I’m even more grateful to be vaccinated, given how mild my symptoms have been," Harmon said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to get vaccinated and also to not let their guard down as we try to get back to normal.”
$100K Illinois Vaccine Lottery Winners Chosen From Chicago and St. Charles
Three winners were chosen Monday during the seventh $100,000 drawing of Illinois' COVID vaccine lottery.
The winners, two located in Chicago, and one in St. Charles, will be notified by the Illinois Department of Public Health by phone or email. Each will be awarded a $100,000 cash prize.
"Illinoisans from those cities and counties should keep their phones on and check their emails regularly to find out if they’ve won," IDPH said in a statement.
Health officials will call from 312-814-3524 and/or email from DPH.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vaccine Mandates and Passports: Will They Come to Illinois?
With cities in parts of the U.S. implementing a COVID vaccine requirement for certain activities, could Chicago and Illinois follow suit?
New York City will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday for anyone wanting to partake in much of public life — dining indoors at restaurants, working out at a gym, visiting a stadium or strolling through a museum. While the new requirement goes into effect Tuesday, enforcement won't begin until Sept. 13.
Other cities, including San Francisco, followed New York's move in taking more aggressive measures against the pandemic.
People who want to go into bars, restaurants, gyms, music halls or other indoor venues in New Orleans will also soon have to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or a recent negative test.
So what does that mean for Chicago and Illinois?
Delta, Lambda, Gamma: Here's a Breakdown of COVID Variants and What We Know So Far
As cases of the delta variant continue to raise concerns across the U.S., the latest variant to take hold in the country, many are wondering what other variants are out there and which should we be concerned about?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, variants of the coronavirus were expected. But some variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than others, according to the CDC, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.
Variants are categorized as "variants of interest," "variants of concern" and "variants of high consequence."
So which variants are being tracked so far? In the U.S. and around the globe, there are currently four variants labeled "variants of concern" by the CDC and the World Health Organization.
Cook County Health Requires Employees to Receive COVID Vaccines as ‘Condition of Employment'
Officials with Cook County Health have announced that all employees will be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines, saying that the move is “simply the right thing to do” amid a delta variant-driven surge in cases.
The announcement was made Monday in a message to employees. Israel Rocha, CEO of Cook County Health, says that all team members will be required to receive the vaccine by Oct. 1, and that employees who aren’t compliant by that date could potentially lose their jobs.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 21,334 New COVID Cases, 92 Deaths, 215K Vaccinations in the Past Week
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 21,334 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 92 additional deaths and more than 215,000 new vaccine doses administered.
In all, 1,457,687 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,594 confirmed COVID fatalities.
Chicago Public Schools to Require COVID Vaccinations for All Employees
Chicago Public Schools will require COVID vaccinations for all employees, the district announced Friday.
The requirement, which comes just days before the district's Aug. 30 start date, includes school-based teachers and staff, central office, regular vendors and network employees, and all other Board employees, unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.
Under the new policy, all staff will be required to submit proof of full vaccination by Oct. 15, unless they have an approved religious or medical exemption. Those who have not already reported to the district that they are fully vaccinated must be tested once a week at a minimum until Oct. 15 or until proof of vaccination is submitted. Staff with a documented exemption will need to be tested for the remainder of the year.