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CHICAGO – As Illinois prepares to celebrate the New Year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says the CDC is reporting 54 counties in the state are at an elevated level for COVID-19. Of those, five Illinois counties are at a High Community Level, compared to 33 a week ago; while 49 counties are at Medium Level, compared to 55 last week. IDPH is reporting 15,904 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois since December 23, and 47 deaths.
“I applaud Illinois citizens for practicing important preventative measures to reduce the spread of infection and protect our hospital capacity,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “It is encouraging to see fewer Illinois counties at an elevated risk for COVID-19, with only five counties currently at high risk. However, as we continue to experience significant levels of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory infections, it is important to continue protecting those most vulnerable to severe outcomes, especially individuals over 65, those immunocompromised, and those with chronic medical conditions.
“Please celebrate the end of 2022 and welcome 2023 by getting up-to-date with the COVID-19 bivalent booster and getting your yearly flu shot, if you haven’t already. Other important steps to protect you and your loved ones include COVID-19 testing, enhanced ventilation at gatherings, and good hand hygiene. And if you are sick, stay home and reach out to your provider about COVID-19 and flu treatments. I wish all Illinois residents great health and happiness in the New Year.”
IDPH announced last week that as of the end this year, it is following the lead of the CDC and shifting from daily reporting of new COVID-19 cases and deaths to a weekly reporting cadence. Daily case and death data will no longer be reported as of January 1, 2023. Following that date, IDPH will report weekly data on Wednesday of each week for the previous week ending Sunday. IDPH will continue daily reporting of ICU bed availability and hospital admission data.
The CDC announced it was making the shift from daily to weekly reporting of case and death data in October. IDPH officials believe that weekly reporting will provide the public with a more accurate picture of COVID-19 trends across the state over time by tracking cases and deaths by the week they arise, rather than the date they are reported, which may be days or weeks later.
IDPH is helping Illinoisans prepare for the fall and winter surge of COVID-19 cases by offering 1 million free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to Illinois residents in all zip codes outside the City of Chicago through a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s public charity, RF Catalytic Capital and its Project ACT (Access COVID Tests) program.
Through Project ACT, IDPH is distributing up to one million at-home antigen tests to 200,000 Illinois households. You can request one package of five tests on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Project ACT website. The tests will be delivered to the home address.
Free or low cost COVID-19 testing locations are also available throughout the state, including in Chicago, and can be found on the IDPH website’s testing locator page.
The CDC authorized two new bivalent booster vaccines on September 1 that include an mRNA component of the original strain to provide an immune response that is broadly protective against COVID-19 and an added mRNA component in common between the omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.
Initially, the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, was authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, was authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older. On October 12, the CDC authorized the updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech for children ages 5 through 11 years, and from Moderna for children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years.
On December 9, the CDC expanded its authorization for bivalent boosters to include children aged 6 months to 5 years. Children ages 6 months through 5 years who previously completed a Moderna primary series can now receive a Moderna bivalent booster 2 months after their final primary series dose. Children ages 6 months through 4 years who are completing a Pfizer primary series will receive a Pfizer bivalent vaccine as their third primary dose.
The updated boosters are available at pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. The best way to locate a vaccine provider near you is to visit www.vaccines.gov and search for bivalent booster availability.
Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 3,969,832 cases, including 35,761 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of last night, 1,767 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 225 patients were in the ICU and 80 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators. The preliminary seven-day statewide case rate is 125 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Illinoisans.
The CDC recommends the following measures for people in areas that are rated at High Community Level for COVID-19 transmission:
• Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings)
• If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease
o Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection
o Consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed
o Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take other precautions
o Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
o IF YOU TEST POSITIVE: Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, and monoclonal antibodies
• If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease
o consider self-testing to detect infection before contact
o consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
• Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
• Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
• Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
In counties at the Medium Community Level, persons who are elderly or immunocompromised (at risk of severe outcomes) are advised to wear a mask in indoor public places. They should also get up to date on COVID-19 vaccines or get their bivalent booster, if eligible.
IDPH has been supporting pharmacies and healthcare providers in efforts to increase their inventories of the various FDA-authorized treatments. There are over 1,200 treatment locations in Illinois - including all the major retail pharmacies. More than 96.7% of the state’s population is within a 10-mile radius of one of these locations.
A total of 25,726,895 vaccines have been administered in Illinois. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 7,429 doses, including the bivalent booster and first doses. Since December 23, 52,005 vaccine doses were reported administered in Illinois. More than 2 million people in Illinois have received the new bivalent booster dose since it was authorized. Of Illinois’ total population, more than 78% have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 71% have completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, and of the eligible population, more than 18% have received the bivalent booster dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data indicates that the risk of hospitalization and severe outcomes from COVID-19 is much higher for unvaccinated people than for those who are up to date on their vaccinations. All data are provisional and are subject to change. Additional information and COVID-19 data can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/
Vaccination is the key to ending this pandemic. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location near you, go to www.vaccines.gov. The federal government has established a new website that provides an all-purpose toolkit with information on how to obtain masks, treatment, vaccines and testing resources for all areas of the country at: https://www.covid.gov/.