COVID-19 Dispatch: State officials urge caution due to uptick in COVID-19 cases
The IDPH is urging caution due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases in some parts of Illinois. Nationwide, cases are up, prompting the CDC to extend its mask mandate on planes and public transportation.
The pandemic is far from over. With confirmed and reported cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across Illinois, state officials are warning the public to remain vigilant as the warm weather approaches.
In early March, after the Omicron surge receded, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted its reporting methods, focusing in COVID-19’s impact on hospitals and health care systems as opposed to transmission trends.
Based on the county you live in, three metrics — low, medium, and high — also help determine whether you should mask up. The entire state of Illinois was low up until this month, with Saline, Gallatin, Pope, and Hardin Counties reporting a high strain on their hospital systems, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
“While hospitalizations and deaths tied to COVID-19 remain stable at this time, we are seeing a slow increase in cases in many areas of the state,” Acting IDPH Director Amaal Tokars said.
“This is a reminder that we all need to remain vigilant and remain up to date on our vaccination status. This is especially important for those who are at higher risk for serious outcomes.”
The CDC’s data reporting change, which coincided with loosened mask guidance, was met with criticism that removing preventative measures is “pendulum policy”: cases decline, masking and indoor dining restrictions relax, cases surge, and restrictions return.
The agency’s federal mask mandate on planes and public transportation was scheduled to expire next Monday, but the agency extended it through May 3 in response to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
As of April 14, the CDC reported the country is averaging 35,475 new cases. That’s up 19.1% from just a week prior, when the agency reported a 7-week average of 26,821 new cases, according to CDC data. The highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2 now accounts for 86% of all new cases, having accounted for 75% of cases just a week prior.
Even as another Omicron subvariant, XE, emerges, some health experts still believe it’s time to remove masks on public transit. It’s about consistency, they say.
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, noted to NPR that indoor dining spaces and gyms are spaces where risk is higher but those mask mandates have been lifted.
“It's really not consistent to have a mask mandate on a plane or a bus versus the whole community,” Gandhi said.
The IDPH is also changing the way it tracks and reports COVID-19, aligning itself with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The IDPH will no longer report test and case positivity rates and will instead emphasize COVID-19’s impact on hospitals and case rate.
The CDC’s shift in data reporting meant that states were no longer required to report rapid test results, only those performed in certified laboratories, like PCR tests.
“Test and case positivity rates were seen as a good way to monitor the level of community spread early in the pandemic,” IDPH Acting Director Amaal Tokars said.
“At this stage, now that we have vaccines and effective therapies available, it is more useful to rely on data that indicates the case rate, disease severity and the level of strain on healthcare systems to guide our public health recommendations.”
COVID-19 by the numbers:
— There were 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported between April 3 and April 9, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health.*
— There’s been a 8% decline in COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days.**
— There have been 4,737 total cases in Harvey since the pandemic began and 104 total COVID-19 related deaths in Harvey since the pandemic began, according to the Office of the Medical Examiner of Cook County.
— On Friday, officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 14,049 new and confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state since April 8. There have been 3,094,485 total cases of COVID-19 reported in Illinois, including 33,510 deaths, since the pandemic began.
— As of April 14, there are 464 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 70 are in the intensive care unit (ICU) and 43 are on ventilators.
— COVID-19 is causing a low strain on health and hospitals across suburban Cook County, according to the CDC.
— As of April 15, an estimated 49% of Harvey residents are fully vaccinated and 69% have received at least 1 dose of vaccine, according to CCDPH data.
— Vaccination trends in Harvey still lag that of suburban Cook County, where an estimated 65% of Cook residents are fully vaccinated and 86% have received 1 dose of vaccine, according to CCDPH data. An estimated 44% of Cook residents have received a booster dose.
— Across Illinois, 68% of the total population is fully vaccinated, and 70% have received 1 dose of vaccine. An estimated 50 of Illinois residents have received a booster dose, according to IDPH data.
* The CCDPH reports COVID-19 data every Wednesday. The data is based on cases reported between the previous Sunday through Saturday and excludes Chicago, Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie, and Stickney Township.
**The CCDPH calculates percent change by comparing the case count from the past 14 days to the case count from the 14 days preceding that.
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