New COVID Stats for Illinois, Mask Guidance, Symptoms – NBC Chicago

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Illinois is changing which metrics it tracks for the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, could Chicago or Illinois follow Philadelphia in reinstating masks? The state’s top doctor weighed in.

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

What Are Symptoms of ‘Stealth’ Omicron or BA.2 as Subvariant Now Dominant Strain

With the BA.2 omicron subvariant now the dominant strain across Chicago and the U.S., what symptoms should you be watching for?

BA.2, also known as “stealth omicron,” is considered a subvariant of omicron, but, according to Chicago’s top doctor, the subvariant is now making up at least two-thirds of the city’s COVID cases.

Read more here.

What Causes Long COVID-19? Chicago Researchers Are Determined to Find Out

Researchers at University of Illinois Chicago have received $22 million from the federal government to better understand the phenomenon of “long COVID-19,” and enrollment of patients for the study has begun.

Area resident John Kazik was one of the first 100 people to sign up. He still experiences major back and joint pain and insomnia on occasion, nearly 19 months after having COVID-19.

Here’s Kazik’s story and how you can get involved in the study.

‘Stealth Omicron’ Cases Continue Rapid Rise in Midwest, CDC Estimates Say

The “stealth omicron” subvariant has only been the dominant strain of COVID in the United States for less than a month, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now believes that it is responsible for more than 80% of new cases of the virus.

According to the latest updated estimates from the CDC, it is believed that the BA.2 subvariant of omicron is responsible for 85.9% of new COVID infections in the United States over the last week.

In the Midwest, the CDC says that 83.7% of cases are believed to be linked to the subvariant. Less than one month ago, the BA.2 subvariant made up less than 15% of cases, according to the department’s estimates.

Read more here.

Illinois Changes Which COVID Metrics It Tracks. Here’s What to Look for Now

Illinois has long been documenting and reporting statewide COVID case and test positivity rates throughout the pandemic, but now the state will now be tracking a different set of data.

In what health officials say is an effort to align with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health will no longer track case and test positivity rates.

Instead, the department will now look at these metrics.

Illinois’ Top Doc Discusses Whether State is Considering Return to Mask Mandate

Even as the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois see increases in COVID cases, it doesn’t appear that officials are planning to follow the lead of Philadelphia in bringing back mask mandates to stop the spread of the virus.

Philadelphia health officials announced Monday that the city would re-introduce its indoor mask mandate beginning on April 18 as a result of increasing COVID cases. According to officials, the city is reporting 142 new COVID cases per day, a 69% increase over the start of the month, and as a result officials have moved the city to Tier-2 on a four-tier “COVID Response Levels” plan.

Chicago and the state of Illinois are both seeing similar increases, but according to Dr. Amaal Tokars, the acting director of the state Department of Public Health, a return of the mask mandate isn’t expected any time soon.

Read more here.

As Philadelphia Reinstates Mask Mandates, Here’s How Their COVID Metrics Compare to Chicago’s

While most cities and states are dropping their COVID mitigations, the city of Philadelphia is going in the opposite direction, reinstating its mask mandate as COVID cases have climbed by more than 50% in the last 10 days.

According to the latest data from Philadelphia officials, the city is averaging 142 new cases of COVID per day, an increase of 69% in the last 10 days alone.

“Cases are going up more quickly than the health department feels is safe,” officials said.

Read more here.

How Effective Are COVID Booster Shots? Here’s What a Chicago Doctor Says

Anyone who contracted COVID-19 during the omicron variant surge may be wondering if they still have natural immunity.

At Rush University Medical Center, researchers are tracking COVID antibody levels in hope of answering the question. Doctors there have been monitoring levels of approximately 1,100 people since the first COVID vaccines came out in December 2020.

“Researchers have not been able to find a magic number of protection,” said Dr. James Moy, an immunologist at Rush.

Read more here.

Why Chicago Expert Says Calling XE the ‘Frankenstein’ COVID Variant is ‘Misleading’

A new hybrid COVID variant known as XE spreading in the United Kingdom is making headlines as a so-called “Frankenstein” variant, but according to one Chicago expert, that nickname is misleading.

The XE variant is a recombinant, meaning it has parts of two different variants rearranged into a new virus, which in this case are BA.1, the original strain of omicron, and BA.2, known as “stealth omicron.”

Read more here.

Chicago Health Department Issues Reminder on CDC COVID Exposure Protocols

Chicago’s health department issued a reminder to residents on what they should do if they test positive for coronavirus, with cases continuing to rise as the BA.2 omicron subvariant takes hold.

“REMINDER: Regardless of vax status, if you test positive for COVID, you must isolate for 5 days, then you must wear a mask in public for days 6-10,” the Chicago Department of Public Health wrote on Facebook Saturday.

Read more here.



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