Sixteen cases of the omicron variant have been identified in DuPage County, the first known cases of the variant in the county, health officials announced Monday.
According to a news release from the DuPage County Health Dept., the earliest positive test was collected on Dec. 8, and as of Monday, none of the variant cases have been reported as hospitalized or deceased.
Karen Ayala, executive director of the health department, said while "it was only a matter of time" before the variant arrived in DuPage County, she said the county has the tools to stop the spread of the disease including COVID-19 vaccines, booster shots and COVID testing.
The state's first case of the variant was reported in a fully vaccinated Chicago resident on Dec. 7. Then, on Dec. 15, the Cook County Department of Public Health announced the variant was identified in a case in suburban Cook County.
Just days later, health officials there issued new mitigation recommendations, warning "suspected cases of the omicron variant are rising... and are likely to escalate quickly."
Addressing omicron concerns earlier this month, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said while "we don't have all the answers right now," general prevention strategies such as masking, vaccination and boosters remain the best protection against the variant.
"As long as the virus continues to circulate, it has the potential to mutate into new variants," she said. "Vaccination can help stop circulation, but we need more people to get vaccinated.”