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Quick-Spreading Delta Variant Causes Concern, But Chicagoans Can Stay Protected By Getting Vaccinated, Top Doc Urges

"We are going to continue to see new variants," but people shouldn't be overly concerned as long as they take safety steps, the city's top doctor said.

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination site in the Jones Convocation Center on the campus of Chicago State University on April 7, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Concerns about coronavirus’ Delta variant have continued, though local officials have said people’s best bet for protection it still as simple as getting vaccinated.

The Delta variant, which some research has shown could be twice as contagious as the original version of COVID-19, has wreaked havoc across the world. Many places that are less vaccinated have seen cases, hospitalizations and deaths climb as the variant has spread. Notably, the global death toll from coronavirus surpassed 4 million people as of Thursday, though officials estimate many more have died but haven’t been counted.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has found 208 cases of the Delta variant throughout the state, including cases in Chicago.

But Chicago has not seen a major uptick in hospitalizations or deaths from COVID-19 since reopening June 11, despite the variant’s spread. Officials have attributed that to vaccinations: About half of all residents have gotten fully vaccinated, including 60.7 percent of all adults.

Chicago’s deaths, new cases and its positivity rate remain close to its all-time lows from throughout the pandemic. The city’s numbers have crept only slightly up since reopening, with Chicago’s average number of new cases per day about flat compared to a week ago.

And less-vaccinated parts of Illinois — particularly downstate regions bordering Missouri, which has been overwhelmed by Delta — have seen significant spikes in COVID-19.

Overall, the state’s seven-day positivity rate has risen from 1 percent on June 11, when Illinois reopened, to 1.4 percent as of Thursday.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, has said the best way to be protected against Delta and other variants is through getting fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second shot of a two-dose vaccine or after the only shot of a one-dose vaccine.

Arwady, speaking during a Thursday livestream, said the vaccines being used in the United States have been shown to be protective against serious illness and death from known variants like Delta.

Despite that, vaccinations have slowed down in the city, with an average of fewer than 5,000 now being done per day. Arwady has said she’s concerned less-vaccinated communities in Chicago will be hit hard by COVID-19 in the fall and winter.

About 98 percent of Chicago’s most recent COVID-19 cases and deaths have been in people who aren’t fully vaccinated.

And the doctor reminded people it’s normal for viruses to mutate and for variants to emerge — so people shouldn’t be overly alarmed by mutations like Delta or the newly recognized Lambda variant, so long as they take precautions like getting vaccinated or following safety guidelines like masking and distancing among unvaccinated people.

“We are going to continue to see new variants,” Arwady said. “The main question is does one emerge that the vaccines are not highly protective against? Especially against the severe outcomes — that would be the biggest worry.”

Vaccines are free, do not require insurance and are available to everyone 12 and older in Illinois.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 6.2 million people of all ages — or 49.05 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccination shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 17,227 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 12,743,061 vaccine doses of the 14,302,395 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.35 million Chicagoans — or 50.2 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 56.3 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Eleven Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Wednesday.

• At least 23,289 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,459 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 617 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,394,852.

• Since Wednesday, 34,204 tests were reported statewide. In all, 26,023,512 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 1.4 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 1.3 percent Wednesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 1.6 percent. It was also at 1.6 percent Wednesday.

• As of Wednesday night, 76 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 35 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, three deaths were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,481 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of less than one death per day, down from an average of one per day the week prior.

• Chicago has had 88 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 286,356 confirmed cases. An average of 37 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 2 percent increase from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has decreased 35 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at .8 percent, up from .5 percent the week prior.

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