COVID-19 has been around for two years and counting, but is it still considered a pandemic?
According to Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, COVID-19 continues to be a "major pandemic" as more infections are occurring throughout the city — and world — with the spread of new variants.
"We show no signs of this ebbing or this becoming something that we're not going to see anymore," Arwady said Thursday.
Illinois health officials reported 35,371 new coronavirus cases over the past week, along with 48 additional deaths as 66 counties across the state are at a "high" community level of COVID-19.
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The previous week, the state reported 32,268 new cases, 52 deaths and 50 counties at "high" community level.
The week before that, the state reported 33,066 new cases and 59 deaths.
In all, 3,563,653 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began, according to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health released Friday. The additional deaths bring the state to 34,375 confirmed COVID fatalities.
Sudden increases in COVID-19 cases have been driven by the emergence of new variants, including delta and omicron. Currently, a more contagious omicron subvariant, called BA.5, accounts for most new U.S. cases, however a separate, newer subvariant is garnering attention.
The BA.2.75 subvariant may be able to evade vaccines and prior infection, according to scientists.
BA.2.75 cases have surfaced in at least a dozen countries, including the U.S., where numbers remain extremely low. A total of 13 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., with three of those in Illinois, said Dr. Arwady.
At this point, it doesn't appear the strain will lead to another major COVID wave in the U.S., but the possibility remains.