COVID Chicago: City past omicron peak, but not out of woods yet

Those without COVID vaccine 5 times more likely to be hospitalized, 8 times more likely to die
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago has officially passed the peak of COVID-19 infections driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, the city's top doctor announced Wednesday.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady shared the hopeful news in her weekly COVID-19 update after weeks of skyrocketing cases, but warned residents not to let their guard down yet.

WATCH | Chicago is past omicron peak, Dr. Arwady says
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Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city has passed the peak from the omicron variant.

Arwady said the first indicator of progress was a decline in emergency room diagnoses of COVID-19, which peaked on Dec. 7. She added that test positivity in the city peaked on Jan. 1 and has been declining ever since.

Pritzker and the state's top doctor said hospitalizations reached their peak in Illinois seven days ago, on Jan. 13.

"We're confident seeing that big decrease both in cases and in positivity that this is not just an artifact of testing, but this is in fact a true peak," Arwady said.

Arwady said the omicron variant now makes up 99.3% of all COVID-19 cases in Chicago, with only 0.7% of cases attributed to delta.

SEE ALSO | Gov. Pritzker 'cautiously optimistic' Illinois is past omicron peak

While the city's COVID metrics are improving, Arwady warned that the risk of infection remains high, and urged residents to get vaccinated and continue wearing masks to slow the spread of the virus.

"We have a very long way to go to be down to a place where this is manageable," Arwady said. "You know, where we're 'living with COVID,' and I do think we'll be living with COVID for the long term."

The latest statistics show unvaccinated Chicagoans are five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID and eight times more likely to die, Arwady said.

"I am cautiously optimistic about this decline, but there are an awful lot of people still battling for their lives in hospitals across Illinois," Pritzker said.

It was just Tuesday when Gov. Pritzker announced federal teams are heading to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, to help the overburdened staff there care for patients.

And deaths, which often lag behind hospitalizations, are still rising.

Many other parts of the country still have not passed the omicron peak.

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