Chicago health officials emphasize booster as COVID cases begin to rise again

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Friday, December 9, 2022
Chicago health officials urge booster as COVID cases rise
While the Chicago region is at medium risk, doctors believe cases are much higher with waste water surveillance in Chicago is showing high risk.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Provident Hospital's emergency room has been busy for months treating RSV and flu patients, and now, Cook County Health doctors are bracing for a return of COVID.

"We know COVID is coming around the corner, so I'm very concerned about our hospitals capacity, as well as hospitals across the state," said Dr. Jonathan Martin, a Cook Co. Health infectious disease specialist.

There is a shared concern at St. Anthony Hospital. The community hospital sits in a neighborhood that was one of the hardest hit when the pandemic began.

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"After many months of not seeing cases, I've seen severe cases in the past week or two," said Dr. Alfredo Mena Lora, a St. Anthony infectious diseases specialist.

While the Chicago region is at medium risk, doctors believe cases are much higher as wastewater surveillance in Chicago is showing high risk.

"What we are seeing is the most vulnerable people ending up in the hospital, which is why it's so important to get vaccinated," Dr. Lora said.

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Older people and patients with underlying conditions are driving the increase of COVID hospitalizations. Doctors said it could be preventable if people get the new bivalent booster.

"A lot of people who are seeing as an inpatient had a booster more than 6 months ago, which gives to further evidence immunity in boosters start to wane over time," Dr. Martin said.

Doctors said the bivalent booster provides the best protection for the virus currently circulating.

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Despite the constant pleas from doctors and public health officials, including the White House, to get the new shot, only, 24% of eligible Chicagoans have received it. The rate is less than 20% for those under 65 and only 34.4% for people 65 and older.

"I know it's a pain to get booster after booster but it will definitely protect you and keep you out of the hospital," Dr. Martin said.

Besides vaccinations, doctors are pushing for people to return to the protocols we've been using for the past three years, like washing hands and mask-wearing. If not, doctors fear hospitals are in for a very busy January.