Cook County bracing for COVID case surge after Christmas, medical experts say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With the omicron variant already fueling a surge in new COVID-19 cases, there are big concerns about another spike in cases as people return home from spending the holidays with family and friends.

With lines already out the door at testing centers, Cook County medical experts are expecting COVID-19 cases to climb in the next few days following the Christmas holiday.

There was a steady flow of folks lined up all day outside a free COVID-19 testing center in Lakeview East from the minute they opened at 9 a.m. Sunday.

"I was at a party where somebody had it. So I figured let me just go and get tested. Even though I've got my boosters and all that," said one man waiting in line.

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Jonathan Jackson said he's not noticing any symptoms, but likes to get tested every four to five days just to be safe.

"I have a lot of work that requires me to be in person around people and I just want to be as safe as possible to protect myself and them," he said.

Doctors say it's a good idea as the Cook County Public Health Department is expecting cases to spike.

"We are going to be seeing more COVID cases over the more proximate days," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical officer, Cook County Department of Public Health.

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Rubin recommends getting tested three days before and three days after any family gatherings, even if you are vaccinated. If you have any slight symptom, like a cough or runny nose, she said to assume it's COVID and get tested to prove otherwise.

"If you are fully vaccinated, especially with a booster, you might still get a breakthrough case," Rubin said. "And we are seeing more breakthrough cases with omicron, but your case is going to be very mild."

Rubin said the vaccine does protect you against omicron, but only about 75% of the time. So if you do get sick, isolate immediately for 10 days. And if you're in a high-risk group, Rubin said you should call your doctor and consider antibody therapy.

"If you haven't gotten tested, go out there and get tested," Jackson urged. "There's no shame in it. Just knowing your status and your health."
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