COVID Illinois Update: IL reports 1,388 new cases, 18 deaths

New omicron BA.2 subvariant continues to increase in Illinois

BySarah Schulte and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Saturday, March 19, 2022
New omicron BA.2 subvariant continues to increase in Illinois
The new omicron BA.2 subvariant first showed up in Illinois in January and continues to increase.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois reported 1,388 new COVID cases and 18 related deaths Friday with fewer than 600 patients hospitalized with the virus statewide.

There have been at least 3,053,185 total COVID cases, including 33,198 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

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The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 1.2%, which is down from Thursday.

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Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 132,380 new specimens for a total of 56,328,379 since the pandemic began.

As of Thursday night, 528 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 88 patients were in the ICU, and 35 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 21,273,924 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Friday, and 64.16% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 8,104.

New omicron BA.2 subvariant continues to increase in Illinois

When new variants emerge in the Chicago area, they often are first detected in a Rush University Medical Center lab where COVID samples are sequenced. The new omicron BA.2 sub variant first showed up in January and continues to increase.

"What we know so far is it might be more transmissible than omicron," said Dr. John Segreti, director, infection control & prevention at Rush University Medical. "It's about 30% more transmissible."

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According to the CDC, the BA.2 sub variant accounts for over 20% of the cases in Midwestern states, including Illinois. It is already causing a resurgence of cases in Europe, specifically the UK.

"We can expect since we generally follow the UK by a few weeks, of what goes on in the UK generally happens here," Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

While the sub variant appears to be more contagious than Omicron, experts say the good news is BA.2 is not causing severe illness.

"There is a possibility a vaccinated individual would get it, but ultimately they are protected against severe disease, hospitalizations and death," said Dr. Alfredo Mena Lora, an infectious disease specialist at St. Anthony Hospital.

But protection does wane, which is why both Pfizer and now Moderna are seeking FDA approval for a 2nd booster. Pfizer is recommending another shot for people 65 and above, and Moderna for people 18 and over.

"It seems to be 4-6 months when the antibodies start to wane," Segreti said.

But, a 4th shot could be a tough sell. Boosters have been around for months and the rates remain low. Only 29% of Americans are boosted in Illinois. In Chicago, the rate is slightly higher, at 33%. With masks coming off and a new variant moving here quickly, doctors are urging people to get protected.