Rising COVID cases in Illinois, nationwide cause for concern before big holiday weekend

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Family gatherings are likely in your calendar this weekend, whether you're celebrating Easter, Passover or Ramadan. But with COVID cases slowly on the rise in Illinois and around the country, some people may be rethinking their holiday plans.

Illinois reported more than 14,000 new COVID cases in the last week, compared to 10,000 the previous week.

Churches, excited to bring parishioners back, may be crowded for the first time in years. Doctors say people should do their own risk assessment when attending services.

"Remember that involves a lot of people and people close to each other, there's a lot of singing and chanting that happens which can unfortunately spread the virus a little bit. But for most people that are fully immunized and boosted, yeah I think they can feel comfortable that they're not going to get sick," Bauer said.

At Holy Name Cathedral, Good Friday mass took on special added meaning. Many Christians are celebrating Easter weekend with no COVID-related restrictions for the first time in three years.

"I'm really hoping that everybody will come together and share a moment of love and be able to have fellowship with each other," said Steve Simmons, celebrating Good Friday Mass.

It's also the first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover, and many gathered at sundown for a traditional Seder meal. Now the custom of welcoming strangers and those in need to the meal can be practiced fully.

"We're happy to see that we can fill up the room again. It was quite lonely last year but more the first year when literally there was not a soul besides our family," said Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz, The Living Room, Lubavich Chabad of Illinois.

And Muslims continue to observe Ramadan, ending their daily fast with iftar shared with family, friends and community.

The federal mask mandate on planes was recently extended through May 3, and doctors ABC7 spoke to sad if you're immunocompromised or at a high risk for disease or death, then you should take precautions this holiday weekend.

"Potentially having other family members who are going to be there get tested beforehand, wearing a mask, opening some windows keeping things ventilated," said Dr. Michael Bauer, medical director of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

But if you're otherwise healthy, you should feel more freedom.

"I don't think for most people, that they really need to be looking at canceling plans at this point," Bauer said.

"Fortunately it's better now and so we can be-- we don't have to be as strict now as we did back then," said Dr. John Segreti, Rush University Medical Center medical director of infection prevention and control.

Doctors said the increase in cases right now is largely due to omicron variants, but because of the omicron surge we experienced in late December and January, they said a large percentage of the population has strong immunity against the current strains.
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