COVID Illinois Update: IL reports 1,442 new cases, 44 deaths as BA.2 spreads

BA.2 subvariant likely to become dominant in Chicago, Arwady says
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois reported 1,442 new COVID cases and 44 related deaths Tuesday as Dr. Arwady predicted that the "stealth omicron" subvariant BA.2 could be the dominant COVID strain in Chicago by the end of the month.

IDPH notes that "daily deaths reported on weekends and at the beginning of the week may be low as IDPH and local health departments move away from reviewing and processing COVID-19 death records over the weekend. Those deaths will be captured in subsequent days."

There have been at least 3,057,078 total COVID cases, including 33,260 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

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The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 1.3%.

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Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 52,434 new specimens for a total of 56,607,579 since the pandemic began.
As of Monday night, 562 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 76 patients were in the ICU, and 35 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 21,289,890 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Monday, and 64.22% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 7,412.

WATCH | Dr. Allison Arwady gives Chicago COVID-19 update
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Dr. Allison Arwady announces changes to the Chicago COVID Travel Advisory.

The United Center lifted its vaccination or proof of testing requirement just in time to host the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen.

With no mask requirement and a new variant on the horizon, Chicago's health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is not worried the event will become a super spreader.

"Right now, honestly, the news continues to be good and where people are concerned I'd encouraged you to put the mask on," Arwady said.

For now, the positivity rate is less than 1%. But, Arwady said cases in Chicago are beginning to go up again. She says the uptick is likely driven by the more contagious new BA.2 subvariant.

"In Chicago, we've seen BA.2 doubling about every 7 days," Arwady said. "We do think predominance, meaning most of our cases, will be BA.2 by the end of the month."

Arwady admits case numbers are likely higher than what is being reported because people are using home tests, but she does not think the testing at home limits public health departments' ability to see surges.

"The first indicator all along, first one that we see move in a way we can trust, is actually emergency department visits and what percentage of people with symptoms test positive for COVID," she explained.

Arwady said ER visits are low as well.

While a cluster of cases at Coonley Elementary caused seven classrooms to mask up again, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said cases remain low districtwide: 107 students and 58 staff members are positive. But if those numbers go up, masks could go back on.

"If we see risk level change - based on CDC, based on our local department of health - we will go back and implement a mask mandate," Martinez said.

CDPH is keeping a close eye on what is going on in Europe, where several countries are experiencing surges. Arwady said she will have a better sense by the end of the month on whether Chicago may be heading in that direction.
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