Chicago's top doctor says 'no masks needed indoors' despite concern over Delta variant

UIC analyzing 7K COVID tests for various strains
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Work being done inside a UIC lab will hopefully lead to more information about various strains of COVID-19, including the Delta variant.

"What we want to know is how fast these strains are spreading," said Dr. Nahed Ismail, UIC Professor of Pathology.

Currently, it's a race to get more people vaccinated as the more contagious Delta variant has doubled nationwide in the past two weeks. The number of Illinois cases continues to increase as well.

"There is no reason to think it's not going to continue because we don't have anywhere near herd immunity or anywhere near 100% of our people vaccinated," said Dr. Sharon Welbel-Cook County Health Epidemiologist & Infection Control Specialist.

The city of Chicago expects the Delta variant to become the dominant strain within the next two months.

The spread of the variant in California has prompted the city of Los Angeles to strongly recommend its residents to wear masks again indoors.

It is a recommendation the World Health Organization encourages as well, but Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said while she is concerned about the variant, the city has no plans to roll back because the numbers look so good.

"We will be sticking with the CDC guidance that says if you're fully vaccinated, you don't need to be wearing a mask indoors," said Arwady.

In addition, Arwady says all three vaccines are very effective against the variant. However, less than the original virus. UIC is currently conducting a big study performing genomic sequencing on new variants. One goal is to collect more data about vaccine efficacy.

"We do the sequence of the strains and we identify them and look at the immune responses we can develop a new vaccine that can be 100% effective," said Ismail.

The UIC study will last two years. The goal is to analyze COVID tests from 7,000 Chicago area participants.
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