Chicago Moves to ‘Medium’ COVID Level, COVID Concerns Increase as Holidays Approach – NBC Chicago

COVID cases are on the rise again as the Chicago area teeters from “low” COVID community level to “medium.”

Here’s what you need to know about the Illinois coronavirus pandemic today.

Precautions advised as Chicago and Cook County return to ‘medium’ COVID alert level

With suburban Chicago and Cook County back under an elevated COVID alert level, health officials are reiterating precautions to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, especially with more gatherings scheduled for the end of the year.

Both Chicago and Cook County moved from “low” to “intermediate” status at the community level on Friday after a rise in statistics, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Read more here.

Need to collect for the holidays as respiratory viruses rise? What to think about

Chicago-area hospitals are already reporting a worrying rate of hospital admissions for children, with intensive care unit bed capacity falling well into the single digits. Some health experts fear a spike after Thanksgiving could make the situation worse.

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New COVID boosters work better against infection than previous shots, CDC finds

Initial real-world data on the new omicron vaccines show they are better at preventing symptomatic COVID infections than the previous doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The findings bolster reports from public health officials that the new injections, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, should provide people with the best protection against COVID this winter, according to the CDC report.

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Chicago area hospitals are running out of beds to help sick children amid a flurry of viruses

Chicago-area hospitals are filling up in the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, with some reporting days with no beds available to treat critically ill children as flu and RSV cases rise.

“Hospitals and clinics are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people sick with respiratory illnesses such as influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19,” the DuPage County Health Department said in a statement Tuesday. “Children are particularly affected, with more children with severe illness seeking care in hospitals with some waiting times to be seen. Some even need to be transferred to another care facility.”

The county said, “There are days when there are no open beds for critically ill children in the hospitals serving DuPage County’s nearly 1 million residents.”

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As 2 sub-variants outnumber BA.5, concerns arise about another new COVID strain BN.1

While the BA.5 COVID variant was the country’s dominant strain for months, that is no longer the case.

Subvariants BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 have since been adopted, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed the two are responsible for about 44% of new COVID infections, NBC News reported. BA.5 was responsible for about 30% of all cases according to the most recent data.

However, they are not the only variants that have emerged recently.

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RSV rises as cases of flu and COVID rise. Do we have to wear masks?

Health experts in Chicago and across the country have been expressing concern since October that an “explosion” of respiratory viruses — RSV, flu and COVID — could emerge this fall and winter as cases of each continue to rise.

“My concern is that as COVID really takes off and as the flu really kicks in, it’s going to really continue to stretch our hospital capacity,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner of Public Health.

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Should residents wear masks, even if not necessary? Chicago’s best doctor weighs in

Amid a slow rise in COVID cases in Illinois and around the United States, Chicago’s top doctor says residents may want to start wearing masks more often in indoor spaces, especially as flu and RSV cases are also on the rise.

Dr. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady took time during her Facebook Live on Tuesday to answer questions about masking and says she has continued to wear masks in indoor spaces.

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3 unusual COVID symptoms and what to watch out for if you think you have them

As the COVID pandemic enters its third winter, many now know that not everyone is experiencing the same symptoms. But for some, the symptoms can seem particularly strange.

While many may experience fever, cough, congestion, and more, there are some unexpected symptoms that may arise.

Read more here.

Are breakthrough cases reported with Bivalent COVID Booster? Topdoc says yes

Chicago’s top doctor said there are reports of breakthrough COVID infections in people who have been given the new bivalent COVID booster and there’s a reason for that.

“We’ve seen some breakthrough cases, as we’ve seen every time… since the onset of COVID,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday, adding that “it’s definitely related to the newer types.”

Arwady referred to the changing dynamics of variant ratios in the Midwest and in the US, with the BA.5 omicron subvariant rapidly losing its hold as the dominant species.

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BA.5 may not be the dominant variety for much longer. Here’s why and what that means

The BA.5 omicron subvariant has been the dominant COVID variant in the US for months, but its reign could soon be over.

That’s because two descendants of the BA.5 stock could potentially overtake him.

This is because new variants keep appearing, including the BN.1, which has now been added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly tracker.

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What you need to know about quarantine, isolation and testing for COVID ahead of the holiday season

What should you know if you test positive for COVID or come into contact with someone who has?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made changes to their COVID guidelines over the summer, changing recommendations for quarantine, social distancing and even testing.

Since then, bivalent COVID booster shots have been administered, but an increase in RSV and flu, coupled with ongoing COVID cases, has some concerned.

Here’s what you need to know.

Moderna announces new data on effectiveness of bivalent COVID booster

Moderna revealed on Monday that the latest trial data showed its bivalent COVID booster shots “elicited a superior neutralizing antibody response against Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants” compared to the original vaccine and booster shots.

“We are pleased to see that both of our bivalent booster vaccine candidates provide superior protection against Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants compared to our original booster, which is encouraging as COVID-19 remains a leading cause of hospitalization and death worldwide. In addition, the superior response to Omicron persisted for at least three months after the mRNA-1273,214 booster,” Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said in a statement.

Bancel also noted that the data seemed to indicate that the bivalent shots showed protection against the new BQ.1.1 subvariant currently growing in numbers in the US.

“Our bivalent boosters also show, in research assays, neutralizing activity against BQ.1.1, an increasingly dominant emerging variant, confirming that updated vaccines have the potential to provide protection as the virus continues to rapidly evolve to elude our immunity,” said Bankel.

Doctors push for vaccinations as respiratory viruses circulate for the holiday season

Chicago-area health officials are urging people to get vaccinated before the colder weather sets in, especially as cases of RSV and the flu rise.

“This ‘triplemic’ … what we call it now involves three viruses,” explains Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Respiratory viruses such as the flu, RSV and COVID-19 are “spreading rapidly” through Illinois, the state’s Department of Health said earlier this week.

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‘Tripledemic’ feared as RSV and flu cases rise, number of COVID communities surge in Chicago area

With winter approaching and Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, doctors are warning that the US may face what is being called a “triplemic” — an increase in three respiratory illnesses.

“When we say ‘triplemic,’ we mean we see high cases of RSV and high cases of flu, and we expect to see high cases of COVID as well,” explains Dr. Kevin Smith out.

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IDPH warns that respiratory viruses are ‘spreading rapidly’ in the run-up to the holiday season

Illinois health officials warn that respiratory viruses are “spreading rapidly” in the run-up to the holiday season, with RSV, flu and COVID-19 continuing to spread as days shorten and temperatures cool.

“The U.S. is currently experiencing its highest flu hospitalization rate in a decade, with young children and seniors most at risk,” said IDPH director Dr. Sameer Vohra in a statement. “Vaccines remain our best tools to prevent the worst consequences of COVID-19. 19 and the flu. I strongly advise anyone who is not yet fully protected against COVID-19 and the flu to get vaccinated right away. Both the new COVID-19 bivalent boosters like the flu shot target the current strains of these viruses.”

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Number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois as more than 1.5 million bivalent booster shots administered statewide

Illinois health officials reported 11,020 new COVID-19 cases since Nov. 4, along with an additional 38 deaths in the past six days.

The number of cases and deaths has dropped significantly over the past week, with 14,225 new COVID-19 cases and 54 additional deaths from the virus.

Read more here.

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