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Flu Shots Needed Again This Year To Protect Health Care System During COVID Surge, Top Doc Says

It's "not quite" flu season yet, but people should plan to get their shots as it kicks up and the state battles a COVID-19 surge, Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Lakeview Pantry client Eustorgia Alcarav receives her first dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination site next to Wrigley Field on April 5, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — People should plan to get their flu shots again this year, the city’s top doctor said this week.

Flu season is typically the most taxing season for hospitals — and the facilities and their workers have already been strained by the coronavirus pandemic. Officials are also worried this fall and winter could see additional surges of COVID-19 due to the highly contagious Delta variant, putting more pressure on the health care system.

One way people can help: They can get their flu shots, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Tuesday livestream.

“It’s more important this year than ever,” Arwady said.

It’s “not quite” flu season yet, but people should plan to get their shots as it kicks up, Arwady said.

Officials hope that will help lessen the number of people who require hospital care for flu, putting less strain on the health care system.

“You may recall that every year, even prior to COVID, flu season is when hospitals are the most full,” Arwady said. “We always see a lot of people hospitalized and, unfortunately, die … in a typical year from influenza.

“There has been a lot of worry about what is known to be an increase on the health care system, particularly related to influenza, paired with” the increased need for hospital care with COVID-19.

The city’s health department will work to get people their flu shots as they’re also seeking out coronavirus booster shots, Arwady said. The national booster campaign is expected to kick off Sept. 20.

Everyone 6 months and older should plan to get their flu shot, Arwady said.

Last year, officials similarly pushed for more people to get their flu shots to prevent straining health care systems.

There are signs Chicago’s coronavirus surge is slowing down — but new cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths remain higher than they were at the start of the summer.

Southern and central Illinois, which tend to be less vaccinated than Chicago, have seen their hospitals start to fill up. Chicago’s health system remains “stable,” the city health department has said.

But it’ll take several weeks to determine if Chicago’s curve has truly flattened — and if the city will see a decrease or another increase in its metrics, Arwady said.

But Arwady has warned there are still too few people fully vaccinated in Chicago, which means there could be an even worse surge in the fall and winter. The doctor urged people to get their shots to prevent that.

“I am concerned, for sure, heading into the winter,” she said. “There’s the potential for it to get much worse [here], as we’ve seen in the rest of the country.”

The vaccines have been shown to be safe and to largely prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19, officials have said.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 6.7 million people — or 53.18 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 26,431 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 14,005,857 vaccine doses of the 16,464,175 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.5 million Chicagoans — or 55.7 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated. About 61.1 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:

• Thirty-seven Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Thursday.

• At least 24,067 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,547 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 5,980 cases since Thursday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,538,324.

• Since Thursday, 109,536 tests were reported statewide. In all, 29,177,890 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 5 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 4.8 percent Thursday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 5.4 percent. It was at 5.5 percent Thursday.

• As of Thursday night, 551 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 302 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, five deaths were reported since Thursday. There have been at least 5,657 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of three deaths per day, unchanged from the week prior.

• Chicago has had 857 confirmed cases reported since Thursday. It’s had a total of 305,625 confirmed cases. An average of 486 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 1 percent increase from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has decreased 2 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.2 percent, down from 4.3 percent the week prior.

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