How worried should you be about the new omicron COVID variant and what are doctors preparing for?
Chicago's top doctor breaks down what we know so far.
Plus, cases in the Midwest are on the rise, making the area the current "COVID hot spot."
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
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Fauci: 1st US Case of COVID-19 Omicron Variant Identified
A person in San Francisco, California who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 became the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the omicron variant, the White House announced Wednesday as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new virus strain.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters that the person was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29. Fauci said the person was vaccinated but had not received a booster shot and was experiencing “mild symptoms.”
Breaking details here.
Omicron COVID Variant Will Likely Be Here in Coming Days or Weeks, Chicago's Top Doc Says
Though the new omicron COVID-19 variant has not yet been recorded in the U.S., Chicago's top doctor said that it will likely be detected "soon."
"I have no reason to think that there are not at least a few cases over here. And I would expect us to be formally detecting it in days or weeks," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a press conference Tuesday.
The extent of the actual spread of the omicron variant around the world, however, still remains unclear as countries discover new cases each day. Scientists in several places — from Hong Kong to Europe to North America — have confirmed its presence.
Read more here.
Fewer Than 13% of CPS Students Under 12 Vaccinated So Far, Officials Say
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez says he’s concerned by lagging student vaccination rates as the district sees infections and quarantines beginning to rise heading into the holiday season, and as a new COVID-19 variant causes worries.
Just less than half of CPS students aged 12 and up have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 despite becoming eligible last spring, officials said Tuesday. And only 12.6% of younger students in the 5-11 age group approved for shots this month have received at least one jab, meaning far fewer are fully vaccinated. More than 90% of staff have completed their vaccine series.
Read more here.
COVID Has Increased Need for Christmas Toy Donations, Leaving Group Pleading For Donations
This Christmas, requests for gifts have more than doubled than previous years because of unemployment and other financial hardships stemming from the pandemic.
On Dec. 22, Operation Cover Chicago expects to provide gifts to more than 20,000 children ages 3 to 15, said Smith, who is also the senior pastor of Another Chance Church in Longwood Manor on the South Side. Anyone can bring their child to the church to pick out a gift on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore has seen suffering “all over” the 4th district, especially during the pandemic. Budgetary constraints have left communities without YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs and other resources to support children, Moore said.
“This is not just about giving a toy to a child,” Moore said. “This is about their mental health, this is about their well-being. This is about letting them know that somebody cares about them.”
Read more here.
'Midwest Is the Current COVID Hot Spot,' According to Dr. Allison Arwady
Cases are rising in several Midwest states as temperatures cool and people head inside this winter, making the area the "current COVID hot spot," according to Chicago's top doctor.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady noted Tuesday that Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin "currently have the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country per capita."
“The Midwest is the current COVID hot spot as temperatures drop and people spend more time inside, so please protect yourself and get vaccinated," Arwady said in a statement.
Read more here.
Omicron ‘Outcompeting' Delta: Why Doctors Are Concerned About the New COVID Variant
As the new omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread worldwide, Chicago's top doctor explained why the latest threat has prompted a concerned reaction from health officials over the past several days.
"[The omicron variant is] outcompeting the delta variant, outcompeting the beta variant and very quickly," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday. "So, it is probably more infectious, more contagious than delta."
Arwady noted that within just 12 days, 90% of COVID-19 cases in South Africa have been detected as the omicron variant. Whereas both the delta and beta variants took about 100 days to saturate 80-90% of the the country.
COVID vaccines should provide "some level of protection" from omicron, according to Arwady, but booster shots would add additional support.
"I don't want people to think 'oh my god, vaccines aren't working now.' That's not what we're saying here," Arwady added. "But we're saying that with this potential new variant, we could be seeing some more breakthroughs and we could be seeing some more people getting COVID again, even if, you know, even if they had COVID in the past."
Read more here.
MAP: Where Have Cases of Omicron COVID Variant Been Detected So Far?
Cases of the new omicron COVID variant continue to be discovered each day as global concerns surrounding the emerging strain spread.
But where exactly have cases been reported so far?
Here's a map showing where the variant has been detected. (Note this map will continue to be updated as the situation develops)
2 States, 1 Territory Removed From Chicago Travel Advisory After Thanksgiving Holiday
Two states and one territory were removed from Chicago's travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the number of states on the city's warning list to 38 states following the Thanksgiving holiday.
California, Guam, and North Carolina were all removed from the advisory this week, the city's health department announced, but no new states were added back on.
As of Tuesday, every state or territory except for Alabama, California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the Virgin Islands are on the advisory.
Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington could be removed from the travel advisory next week if their COVID rates remain below the city's threshold.
Read more here.
Delta vs. Omicron Variant Symptoms: How New COVID Variant Might Differ From Previous Cases
While scientists and experts are still working to find answers to many unanswered questions surrounding the new omicron COVID variant, some doctors in South Africa who have treated cases said the symptoms appear to differ from what many have come to expect with the delta variant.
As the emergence of the new COVID variant omicron begins to restrict U.S. travel and raises global concerns due to its increased risk of reinfection, scientists and doctors are working to collect data around how and why this variant behaves differently than others.
So what are the symptoms of the new omicron COVID variant and the delta COVID variant?
Though health experts have said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, here's what we know so far.
Chicago Officials Release Statement on New Omicron COVID Variant
Chicago officials are preparing for the new omicron COVID variant, though they said there are still many questions to be answered about the emerging variant of concern.
In a statement Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city is "very engaged in the heightened discussions regarding the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, particularly with our federal partners."
"At this point, there are many questions which scientists across the world, and at the Chicago Department of Public Health, are actively working to address all while closely monitoring this strain," the statement read. "While that work continues, we must as a city, and importantly as individuals, continue to follow the public health guidance: get vaccinated, and if vaccinated, get your booster; wear a mask indoors and when you're around other people; and if you are feeling sick, stay home to save lives. The unvaccinated remain the most at risk to themselves and others so please get vaccinated as soon as possible."
Read more here.
Omicron COVID Variant Symptoms, Cases and More: What We Know So Far
A new COVID variant dubbed omicron sparked global concerns and travel restrictions for several countries over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but what makes it so troubling and what symptoms should you watch for?
The global risk of omicron is "very high," the World Health Organization said Monday, as more countries reported cases of the variant that has led to worldwide concern that there is more pandemic suffering ahead.
Here's a breakdown of what we know about the new omicron variant, its symptoms and where cases have been discovered so far.