COVID Illinois Update: IL reports 1,586 new cases, 20 deaths

Omicron subvariant BA.2 poised to become dominant strain in Chicago, U.S.
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois reported 1,586 new COVID cases and 20 related deaths Tuesday as scientists are seeing the highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.2 become the dominant strain in the United States.

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."

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There have been at least 3,065,321 total COVID cases, including at least 33,348 related deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 1.7%.

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 44,020 new specimens for a total of 57,121,987 since the pandemic began.

As of Monday night, 492 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 70 patients were in the ICU, and 34 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 21,339,425 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Monday, and 64.13% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 7,076.

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BA.2 is projected to account for almost 55% of new cases, and virus sequencing at the Rush University Medical Center lab shows Chicago is on the same track.

"At our last count, we were seeing BA.2 about 40% prevalence in Chicago," said Hannah Barbian, a virologist and epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, "and we have been very consistent with CDC projections. We are likely right around where the CDC predicts."

Even though BA.2 is about 30-50% more contagious, the Rush lab is seeing the subvariant increase at a slower rate than its original variant, omicron.

"We saw so many people getting infected with BA.1," Barbian said, "we know BA.2 is sensitive to antibodies generated by BA.1 and boosters."

Experts say infections and boosters can slow the subvariant down, but boosters wane over time. That is why the FDA and CDC have signed off on a 2nd Moderna and Pfizer booster for people above 50, four months after their first booster. The CDC says people above 65 and high-risk populations are being advised to get it sooner than later.

"Ideally, getting your protection before cases are completely on the rise is the best," said Dr. Alfredo Mena Lora, St. Anthony Hospital & UIC Infectious Diseases.

While the vaccines prevent hospitalizations and death, they are not enough to prevent people from breakthrough infections, which is why the drug companies are working on variant specific vaccines.

"As of right now, we know these vaccines and boosters protect you, but we also know we can improve these tools to reflect the current spike proteins circulating," Mena Lora said.

The FDA vaccines advisory committee will meet next week, and one of the discussions will be about moving away from the current vaccine and shifting to one that is more specific to individual variants.
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