CHICAGO — Illinois’ and Chicago’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant was found Tuesday evening in the city.
The city and state health departments confirmed the headline-making COVID-19 variant was found in the city. The person who has the case is a Chicago resident who came in contact with someone from another state who was sick with the Omicron variant and visited Chicago.
The Chicago resident is fully vaccinated and has had a booster shot, according to the state health department. The resident has self-isolated since developing symptoms, is not hospitalized and is improving.
“The city and [Chicago health department] continue to closely monitor the Omicron variant and work with medical experts to better inform our residents,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “To meet the urgency of this moment, it’s crucial that our residents continue to get vaccinated and receive their booster shot.”
The news was not unexpected: Dr. Allison Arwady, head of Chicago’s health department, said earlier in the day she expected to see the variant found in Chicago within a day. Nineteen other states have also reported cases of the variant.
The Omicron variant is thought to be highly contagious, but experts are still studying it to determine how transmissible it is, if it can make people more severely ill and if available vaccines are effective against it. Arwady has said answers to those questions will be available in two weeks or so.
Arwady said experts expect the vaccines to offer some protection against Omicron, especially when it comes to preventing severe illness and death. But it’s possible people will need another booster shot to be better protected against Omicron in the future, she said.
For now, the best thing people can do is ensure they’re fully vaccinated and boosted, Arwady said during a Tuesday livestream.
“What I do know is getting the vaccines we have now and getting boosted has helped protect against the spread of Omicron in a number of case examples,” Arwady said.
And people who are sick should stay home and get tested to determine if they have COVID-19, Arwady said. The city’s health department has heard from residents who said they felt sick but thought it was a cold, so they went to Thanksgiving gatherings — only to then spread the virus among their loved ones at the holiday event.
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