Chicago’s top doctor will give an update Thursday on the city’s latest COVID-19 data, including details on cases tied to Lollapalooza.
FILE – In this Jan. 15, 2021, file photo, Dr. Yomaris Pena, Internal Medicine Physician with Somos Community Care at a COVID-19 extracts the last bit of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine out of a vial so as not to waste it at a vaccination site at the Corsi Houses in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York. An untold number of Americans have managed to get COVID-19 booster shots even though the U.S. government hasn’t approved them. They’re doing so by taking advantage of the nation’s vaccine surplus and loose tracking of those who have been fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Illinois has launched a new portal called “Vax Verify” that allows residents to check their COVID-19 vaccination record.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Chicago’s Top Doctor to Give COVID Update, Discuss Cases Tied to Lollapalooza
Chicago’s top doctor will give an update Thursday on the city’s latest COVID-19 data, including details on cases tied to Lollapalooza.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady will hold the news conference at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall.
Arwady will “provide an update on COVID-19 case data and vaccinations, including the tracking of cases associated with the Lollapalooza music festival, and discuss the City’s response to large gatherings,” CDPH said in a statement. The event can be watched live in the video player above.
The update comes exactly two weeks after the four-day Lollapalooza music festival kicked off in the city’s Grant Park. It also comes at a time when the average daily number of new cases in Chicago is up to 364 per day – a 39% increase over the previous week.
That figure is also more than 10 times the low of 34 that the city saw in late June but remains lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing earlier this year and last, before vaccines were widely available.
Some Festival-Goers Test Positive For COVID After Attending Lollapalooza
Lollapalooza took over Grant Park almost two weeks ago with an estimated 380,000 people from across the country attending the four-day music festival.
“I was excited to be there and I was like, oh, wow, things feel so normal for the first time,” said concert-goer Hannah Corona.
The 22-year-old from Washington is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and went to the festival all four days.
“Getting vaccinated and going to like a full regular event was definitely like a weird experience,” she said. “But it was very exciting.”
One day after leaving the festival to return home, however, she said she began showing mild symptoms.
“I just had a really bad headache, but again I just thought I was tired and the time change. I was like okay, my body just needs like rest,” Corona said. “Then Tuesday I woke up the headaches was really, really bad. I was just like really, really hot. Just did not feel great.”
Illinois Launches Online COVID Vaccine Verification Portal ‘Vax Verify’
Illinois on Wednesday launched a new portal called “Vax Verify” that allows residents to check their COVID-19 vaccination record.
Vax Verify can be found on this website and will enable residents ages 18 and older to verify and download their immunization information, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.
“As more businesses, events, organizations, and others require proof of vaccination, Illinois residents will be able to confirm using Vax Verify that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “With the current surge in cases, more people are making the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine and this new tool will aid residents in confirming their vaccination where needed.”
IDPH highlighted that anyone with tickets for the grandstand track area for concerts at the Illinois State Fair will be required to provide a print or digital copy of their vaccination record or a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours, noting that the Vax Verify portal will enable residents to obtain documentation of their COVID vaccination for events or businesses that require it.
After registering with the site, IDPH said individuals can see their own record in the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange, otherwise known as I-CARE.
Chicago Adds 12 More States to Travel Advisory as Cases Rise
Chicago added 12 states to its travel advisory Tuesday, recommending that unvaccinated people entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
The 12 new states include Idaho, North Carolina, Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Montana, Delaware, New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
The addition brings the total number of states on the advisory to 31, along with two territories.
This marks the first time since April that the advisory has had more states over the threshold than under, CDPH reported.
The list – updated weekly – now includes: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Illinois Officials Say COVID Hospitalizations Among Kids Largely Steady as Other States See Surges
While children’s hospitals in some parts of the United States are seeing significant increases in illnesses and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, health officials in Illinois and the Chicago area say that they aren’t seeing those types of increases, but are still taking extra precautions to ensure that children continue to stay safe as variants help fuel new cases.
In the state of Illinois, hospitalization rates for children under the age of 12 have largely remained steady in recent months, while hospitalizations among children between the ages of 12 and 17 have actually dropped in the last two months.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that her office is seeing more COVID cases among children, but that they are generally following the pattern of previous variants of the virus, with children generally not seeing severe health outcomes when they do get sick.
“They’re seeing more younger people (being infected), but that’s because kids haven’t had the opportunity yet to be vaccinated. We are seeing more children sick just because it is more contagious,” Arwady said. “The good news is, just like in the other types of COVID, the huge majority of the time, they have a relatively minor case.”
Dr. Abigail Hodges of Oak Park Pediatrics says that while the delta variant is more contagious than previous strains of the virus, it generally doesn’t cause severe health outcomes like hospitalizations and death at any higher rate than previous variants.
“We are seeing more kids getting COVID. We’re seeing a lot more positives at my office, but they’re not more sick than they were before,” she said.
COVID hospitalization rates in Illinois for children have remained largely steady for most of 2021, according to data provided by state health officials. In the month of July, 57 children under the age of 12 were hospitalized in Illinois due to COVID-19, with 21 children between the ages of 12 and 17 hospitalized in that time.
Those numbers closely mirror the totals from other months, with 58 hospitalizations reported in both March and April among children 12 and under. May saw 55 hospitalizations in that age group, with June serving as a bit of an outlier with 29 hospitalizations.
Hospitalizations among teens between the ages of 12 and 17 actually are down in recent months, after peaking at 60 in April and then 50 in May. In June, 20 total hospitalizations were reported in that demographic.
Pitchfork Music Festival to Require Proof of Vaccination or Negative COVID Test to Enter
Pitchfork Music Festival, slated to take place in Chicago next month, has updated its guidelines to require attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter.
The music festival said it will also be recommending all attendees wear a mask in line with guidance from the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The festival will run from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12. at Union Park.
To enter the festival, Pitchfork said it will accept the actual physical vaccination card, a photocopy of it or an electronic photo from a phone. A photo ID must be shown as well.
Unvaccinated individuals will need to show negative COVID-19 test results obtained within 24 hours each day of attendance, the festival said.
Pitchfork will accept negative COVID tests from Walgreens, CVS and Curative.
The day before the festival and throughout the remainder of it, Curative will be located one block away from the festival grounds offering rapid tests from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
$100K Illinois Vaccine Lottery Winners Chosen, From Chicago and Suburban Cook County
Three winners were chosen Monday during the fifth $100,000 drawing of Illinois’ COVID vaccine lottery.
The winners, two located in Chicago, and one in suburban Cook County, 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.email@example.com.
Chicago Crosses 2 Milestones in COVID Vaccination Effort
The city of Chicago announced Monday that it has crossed two major milestones in its effort to vaccinate residents against COVID-19.
As of Aug. 5, more than 70% of adults over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the three available vaccines, the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a statement.
In addition, CDPH said that more than 50% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 had received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccine federal health officials have approved for emergency use for anyone under age 18.
Chicago’s Top Doctor Explains Variants, Delta and Delta Plus, When City May Need More Restrictions
Chicago’s top doctor on Thursday broke down the different types of coronavirus variants, explaining delta and delta plus, as well as detailing when the city and other jurisdictions would potentially need to make “major changes” in restrictions and other efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady addressed questions about the different variants in a Facebook live broadcast.
She highlighted the three different tiers into which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes coronavirus variants. They are, in ascending order of concern: variant of interest, variant of concern and variant of high consequence.
“We’ve never had a variant yet that has been considered a variant of high consequence. If we did, that would be a very big deal,” Arwady said. “It would mean that we would probably need to be doing another round of vaccinations or making major changes, but we’ve not seen anything that the [World Health Organization], the CDC, anybody, has labeled as variant of high consequence,”
“We do have some of these variants of concern,” she continued. “The one that has been getting the most attention right now, of course, is the delta variant.”
Arwady clarified that the so-called “delta plus” variant is a sub-type of the delta variant known formally as AY.1. The original delta variant is known as B.1.617.2, while three sub-types have been labeled AY.1, which some have informally called “delta plus,” as well as AY.2 and AY.3.
“There have been a handful of cases, but not even 1% of cases, either here in the Midwest area or in the U.S. have been identified as that AY.1,” Arwady said.
Arwady said that among the sub-types of the delta variant, the original delta variant B.1.617.2 “outcompetes” the others because it is more contagious.
Oak Park Public Health Department Issues Indoor Mask Mandate, Effective Immediately
Oak Park will require all individuals over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in public indoor spaces starting Friday, the village announced.
“The Village has experienced a 750% increase in COVID-19 cases in July 2021 as compared to June 2021. Therefore, I have determined that additional mitigation measures are necessary under Phase 5 to protect the public health pursuant to my authority,” said Oak Park Public Health Director, Dr. Theresa Chapple-McGruder.
The new requirement applies to all businesses, multi-family residential buildings, health care settings, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, shelters, congregate settings, government buildings and on all forms of public transportation, including in transportation stations and hubs, the village said.
Masks were recommended outdoors if individuals are unable to maintain at least a six-foot distance from others not from the same household.
Oak Park currently identifies as an area of substantial transmission of COVID-19. The village had 83 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in July, compared to 11 in June.
According to Oak Park officials, about 58% of its residents have received at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 16,742 New COVID Cases, 64 Deaths, 176K Vaccinations in the Past Week
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 16,742 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 64 additional deaths and more than 176,000 new vaccine doses administered.
COVID cases statewide have increased by more than 43% over the last week, with hospitalizations up 33%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Intensive care unit admissions also increased by 47% and the number of COVID patients on ventilators nearly doubled in the past week, up by 95%.
In all, 1,436,353 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,503 confirmed COVID fatalities.
The state has administered 365,210 tests since last Friday, officials said, bringing the total to more than 27 million tests conducted during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests rose to 5.2% from 4.7% last week which was up from 3.5% the week before, officials said. The rolling average seven-day positivity rate for cases as a percentage of total tests was up to 4.6% from 4% the week before, 3.3% two weeks prior and 1.9% three weeks ago.
IDPH noted, however, that the regional seven-day positivity rate ranges from 3.1% to 10.3%.
Over the past seven days, a total of 176,709 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to Illinois residents – up from around 154,000 the week prior and bringing the state’s average to 25,244 daily vaccination doses over the last week, per IDPH data.
More than 13 million vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois since vaccinations began in December. More than 59% of adult residents in the state are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with 75% receiving at least one dose.
As of midnight, 1,200 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID in the state. Of those patients, 246 are in ICU beds, and 121 are on ventilators. All three metrics are a reported increase since last Friday.
How to Find Out if You’re in an Area Where the CDC Recommends Masks Indoors
Every county in the Chicago area is seeing “substantial” or “high” community transmission of COVID-19, placing the entire region in the category in which fully vaccinated people should resume wearing a mask indoors, federal health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last week 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.
The new guidance marked a reversal from earlier recommendations that said fully vaccinated people could remove masks in most settings.
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.
COVID Booster Vaccine Shot Could Be Recommended for Certain Populations, Arwady Says
No COVID-19 vaccine booster shot has officially been recommended, but Chicago’s top doctor says it could be eventually for certain people.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in a Facebook Live Thursday that should a booster COVID shot recommendation come, it will likely be for particular populations, such as those over age 65 and people with immune-compromising conditions.
“We may see a booster recommendation, but we’re more likely to see that I think for particular populations as we do for other diseases, even flu,” Arwady said.
If a recommendation is put into place in the future, however, Arwady said pharmaceutical companies are ready.
“So the pharmaceutical companies are doing all that work, they are very ready to go when if there is need for a booster, but we’ve not seen anything that says, adults, for example, that would be a requirement,” Arwady said.
She added that the U.S. will not be able to “booster” their way out of the COVID pandemic, so the focus should rather be on vaccine equity, especially as the delta variant surges.
Gov. Pritzker Announces Mask Mandate for All Illinois Schools This Fall
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced that all students and teachers in schools will be required to wear masks while indoors, as state officials take steps to try to slow the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.
Pritzker says that the new requirement will take effect immediately, and will also apply to all students and coaches participating in indoor sports and other activities.
“As your governor, it’s my duty to say that we must all take immediate and urgent action to slow the spread of the delta variant,” he said. “People are dying who don’t have to die.”
Pritzker says that the state has a “limited amount of time” to slow the spread of the delta variant.
The mandate comes after the Illinois Department of Public Health last week said it would follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new recommendations for masking indoors at K-12 schools, recommending it be done universally among teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Chicago Public Schools – the state’s largest district – announced last month that all students and teachers will be required to wear face coverings and social distance while indoors this upcoming academic year.
‘It Can Happen:’ Pritzker Urges Young Adults to Take Delta Variant Seriously as Cases Rise
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stark warning to young adults in the state Wednesday, saying that the delta variant of the coronavirus is impacting individuals 30 and younger with much greater regularity than previous strains of the virus.
According to Pritzker, approximately 12% of COVID hospitalizations nationwide are occurring among individuals 29 and younger, and the state is urging those residents to take virus mitigation efforts seriously.
“Unlike before, people 29 years and younger are accounting for 12% of hospitalizations across the nation. We are seeing young people with no underlying conditions now on ventilators,” he said. “Every time we think we know where this virus is headed, it shifts.”
During a press availability Wednesday, Pritzker continued to urge eligible residents to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, with shots available through at-home programs and a wide variety of other methods.
Pritzker says that 96% of COVID hospitalizations in the state are occurring in unvaccinated individuals, and he says that it is imperative that young adults take the virus seriously.
“I want to say specifically to young adults: please don’t think that the worst case scenario can’t happen to you. It can happen. It is happening,” he said. “Get vaccinated. To parents of minors who are eligible to get the shot, please get your children vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Pritzker Mandates COVID Vaccines for State Employees at Congregant Living Facilities
With the delta variant driving COVID-19 case numbers higher and higher in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced multiple “initial” actions to combat the variant, including a new mask mandate for students and teachers in schools and vaccine requirements for employees of state-run congregant care facilities, including veterans’ homes and correctional facilities.
The new requirements were laid out during a press conference Wednesday at the Thompson Center, with the governor saying that the state needs to take “immediate and urgent action” to slow the spread of the delta variant.
The governor announced that employees at state-run congregant care facilities, including correctional facilities, veterans’ homes, and psychiatric hospitals, will be required to receive COVID vaccinations, effective Oct. 4.
“By and large, residents of these state-run facilities have done what they can do to protect themselves by getting vaccinated,” he said. “And yet, many of the long-term care facilities’ employees have not been vaccinated.”
State agencies will be required to make the vaccine readily available to employees, and negotiations remain ongoing with unions about implementation of the new requirements.
The third and final pillar of the actions Pritzker announced Wednesday is a requirement that all visitors, staff and patients at long-term care facilities wear masks. That includes such facilities that are privately operated.
“Given our current trajectory, we have a limited amount of time to stave off the highest peaks of this surge heading into the fall,” he said. “We now have an extremely effective tool to save lives, and to keep our hospital systems from being overwhelmed by COVID cases.”
Will Illinois, Chicago Start to Require Vaccine Passports For Residents? Officials Weigh In
With areas like New York City now requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for a number of indoor activities, could Chicago or Illinois start to require a similar “vaccine passport” for residents?
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not announced any plans for a COVID vaccine requirement statewide, but Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday the city could have a type of vaccine passport in the future — just not yet.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that while the city is “interested” in the idea, there are no current plans to make a move similar to New York City.
“I think at this point I’m certainly… we’re interested in this,” Arwady said. “We’ll be watching to see how this plays out, but we don’t have a current plan to do something like that at the city level.”
Arwady noted Chicago and Illinois are still working on technology to implement vaccine proof on such a grand scale, though she noted making such a requirement is “a really big decision.”
“I’ll tell you in New York City, there’s a couple things that are different. One is I think they have embraced this vaccine passport idea a little bit more than has been embraced here in the Midwest and across Illinois,” Arwady said. “We’ve been working with the Illinois Department of Public Health to make it easier for people to be able to access their own vaccination records, thinking about some behind-the-scenes work to be able to have a more standard way for people to be able to show proof of vaccination, for example, because I do think where you’re thinking about doing some of this potentially at a larger level, you want to make sure that it can be operationalized in a way that makes sense.”
Can Your Employer Require a Coronavirus Vaccine?
As coronavirus cases are once again on the rise fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, more Chicago companies are mandating vaccinations and masks.
Some employees and customers are pushing back against the rules, citing their freedom of choice, but Chicago attorney Tom Glasgow said the legal system is not on their side, at least not so far.
“You’re an employee at will,” said Glasgow, of Glasgow & Olsson. “They can mandate anything for you as a private employer.”
Here’s How the Delta Variant Symptoms Differ From the Initial COVID Strain
About 83 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been fueled by the delta variant, and as the surge continues, the number of associated cases is expected to rise even higher in the coming weeks, according to health officials.
Approximately one month ago, on June 19, the delta variant accounted for just over 30 percent of new cases. On July 3, it crossed the 50 percent threshold to become the dominant variant in the U.S. Public health experts nationwide have focused their efforts on encouraging vaccinations as most of those who’ve contracted the variant haven’t been vaccinated.
Studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against multiple variants, including the delta variant. However, when it comes to symptoms, there appear to be key differences.
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