COVID Update: IL reports 1,592 new cases, 19 deaths as BA.2 becomes dominant strain in Chicago

BA.2 not causing COVID-19 case surge in Chicago, Dr. Arwady says
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois reported 1,592 new COVID cases and 19 related deaths Thursday as the BA.2 omicron subvariant has become the dominant strain in Chicago.

There have been at least 3,068,237 total COVID cases, including at least 33,377 related deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

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

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 99,334 new specimens for a total of 57,304,799 since the pandemic began.

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As of Wednesday night, 461 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 58 patients were in the ICU, and 22 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 21,354,847 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Wednesday , and 64.34% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 6,824.

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While the BA.2 omicron sub variant is now the dominant strain of the virus in Chicago, the city's top doctor says we're not seeing a surge in cases.

Chicago Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said it appears to be the first time the U.S. is not following Europe when it comes to case progression.

The BA.2 sub variant doubles every seven days and is 30-50% more contagious than its original strain. Unlike the omicron wave, the city is not seeing long testing lines.

"We continue to be at relatively low risk and a good spot in Chicago," Arwady said, "and we are watching closely for signs of significant concern."

While COVID case trends in the United States have followed those in Europe, this time may be different. Vaccinations and the large number of people who were infected with omicron are providing the population with protection.

"A lot people are protected from getting BA.2 because of those existing antibodies of BA.1," said Hannah Barbian, a virologist and epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

But some wonder if testing is accurate, since so many people are taking home tests and not reporting cases to the health department.

"All along, case count is only one piece of what we monitor," Arwady explained.

Arwady said wastewater testing is not seeing a big spike and neither are emergency rooms. Traditionally, Arwady said ERs see major increases before surges.

Chicago's top doctor also said she was encouraged by what is being seen in public and private schools, where masks became optional a few weeks ago.

"Are we seeing some cases? We are," Arwady said. "Are we seeing some clusters? Are we seeing any signs that taking masks off have led to widespread increase of infection? No."

While Arwady said the numbers look good now, she said the city is ready to shift quickly if there is a surge again.

While the risk is low, Arwady is encouraging anyone over 65 or over 50 with underlying conditions to get a second booster.
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