Chicago’s top doctor addresses why some people contract COVID-19 while others appear to avoid the virus.
Meanwhile, spring and summer festivals are making a big return, many at “nearly their pre-pandemic size and scope.”
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
‘Never COVID Cohort:’ Chicago’s Top Doc on Whether Genetics Can Help Guard Against Serious Illness
The question of how some individuals seem to avoid contracting COVID-19 better than others has fascinated scientists throughout the pandemic, and Chicago’s top doctor cited a growing body of research that suggests there could be a variety factors at play when it comes to determining who gets sick with the virus and who doesn’t.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, addressed the research that has been going on at a variety of levels to determine whether differences in immune systems and genetics can potentially offer more, or less, protection against COVID in different populations.
While she said that the idea of a “never COVID cohort” isn’t exactly accurate, preferring instead to focus on the idea that some individuals could have more resistance to serious illness, she said that there are plenty of factors being researched on that front.
“We’ve learned a lot about immunity, and there’s a lot we don’t know,” she said during a Thursday question-and-answer session. “Some of the most interesting basic science research (surround) four or five different hypotheses that you can measure in someone’s blood that can tell you that this person is at higher risk of having a more severe outcome from COVID.”
Read more here.
Chicago Could Lift Vaccine Requirement ‘Not That Long From Now’ If Downward Trends Continue: Arwady
Chicago’s vaccine mandate in place at bars, restaurants and gyms could be lifted “not that long from now” should the city continue to see COVID-19 metrics trending downward, according to Chicago’s top doctor.
As the city sees coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations quickly decreasing, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook live event Thursday that she hears people asking when the vaccine requirement could be removed.
“Not next week, I will tell you that,” Arwady said. “But if we continue to see the drops like we’ve been dropping, it would not be that long from now, I think.”
Read more here.
Taste of Chicago, Air and Water Show Will Return at ‘Pre-Pandemic Size and Scope’
Taste of Chicago and the Air and Water Show, among other spring and summer festivals, are set to make a return in 2022, many at “nearly their pre-pandemic size and scope,” city officials announced Thursday.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced the dates for several notable festivals and special events hitting the city over coming months.
“Chicago’s spring and summertime programming is cherished by our residents and bolsters our tourism, hospitality and creative industries,” Lightfoot said. “I am thrilled that we can bring back our iconic music and food festivals, as well as hundreds of other events. This will help to bring a sense of normalcy back to our city and revitalize the local economies of our neighborhoods.”
Full list here.
Illinois Health Officials Begin Preparations as Pfizer Seeks Approval for Children Under 5 to Get COVID Vaccine
With Pfizer submitting data Tuesday to the Food and Drug Administration to allow for an emergency use authorization on its COVID vaccine for children under the age of five, Illinois health officials are working to ready themselves to administer those shots as soon as the go-ahead is given.
According to a press release issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health, officials are working to prepare for the likely event that the FDA will authorize COVID vaccine doses for children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years old.
“We are looking forward to the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine for our youngest population, once it’s reviewed by the CDC,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of IDPH, said in a statement. “As we move toward coexisting with COVID-19, it is important that we are able to offer as much protection as possible from COVID-19-related hospitalizations for all ages.”
Read more here.
More Details on Version of COVID Variant Now Found in Illinois, Wisconsin
A version of the omicron variant dubbed “stealth omicron” is being monitored by scientists and health experts around the world, and has now been detected in both Illinois and in Wisconsin, according to health officials.
According to officials at Northwestern University, the first case of the BA.2 omicron subvariant was detected in Illinois Monday. The first case in Wisconsin was also reported on Monday, according to Milwaukee County health officials.
This version of the coronavirus is widely considered stealthier than the original version of omicron because particular genetic traits make it somewhat harder to detect on PCR tests.
Read more here.
Illinois Reports First Case of ‘Stealth Omicron’ Subvariant BA.2
The first case of the BA.2 omicron subvariant, often called “stealth omicron,” has been detected in Illinois, Northwestern University officials said Monday.
The case was discovered by Northwestern Medicine’s Center for Pathogen Genomics and Microbial Evolution (CPGME) over the weekend, according to a news release from university officials.
The individual who contracted the variant was tested for COVID-19 on Jan. 18, however additional information about the person, including where in Illinois they’re located, wasn’t available. It isn’t the first case to be detected in the Midwest as a Milwaukee County health official said Monday the subvariant had also been reported in Wisconsin.
Read more here.
Chicago Public Schools Shorten Isolation and Quarantine for Students and Staff
Chicago Public Schools will reduce its recommended quarantine and isolation periods beginning Tuesday in alignment with current COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Children and staff members who test positive regardless of their vaccination status will need to isolate for five days rather than the previously advised 10 days, according to CPS and health officials.
According to CPS, the shift to a five-day quarantine will impact students differently depending on their vaccination status, symptoms and whether an infection has been confirmed.
Read more here.
Free COVID Test Kits: How Illinois Residents Can Get Them and Where
There are now multiple ways some Illinois residents can order free COVID test kits, but your options depend on where you live as new state and federal programs begin.
In certain ZIP codes in 14 Illinois counties, thousands of at-home, rapid COVID tests are being made available for free, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced last week.
That’s on top of a government program that launched earlier this month for all Americans.
Incubation Period: How Long Should You Quarantine With a COVID Infection?
As coronavirus cases continue to spread throughout Chicago and Illinois and officials update incubation period guidance, how long should you quarantine with an infection?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its guidance, shifting the timing for isolation and quarantine as some experts say the time frame when people are most contagious is earlier.
Residents in These Illinois ZIP Codes Can Get Free At-Home COVID Tests From IDPH
In 14 Illinois counties, thousands of at-home, rapid COVID tests are being made available for free, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Friday.
According to the department, 225,000 test kits are being made available through Project Access COVID Tests to residents in certain zip codes.
Residents in the eligible communities can order the tests via AccessCovidTests.org, where they can sign up for a free home delivery. Each household will then receive five tests, or one kit, within two weeks of ordering. Shipping is free, IDPH noted.
List of eligible ZIP codes here.