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Omicron Creates ‘Fifth Wave’ Of COVID-19 In Chicago, With Officials Urging People To Get Tested Before Holidays

Chicago just had the most cases ever reported in 24 hours, and Illinois has now had more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Irma from Tinley Park receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Esperanza Health Centers, 6057 S. Western Ave., on Nov. 4, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Illinois has now seen more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 — and new cases are rapidly climbing.

The state hit the grim milestone Wednesday; the same day, Chicago also reported the highest amount of confirmed cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic, with 4,641 diagnoses.

“There’s no denying that we are in a fifth wave of COVID-19,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Tuesday news conference. “This new wave is seemingly more deadly than the last, spreading faster and causing profound harm. To be clear, I have not been this concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic in 2020.”

The city will start requiring some businesses — including bars, restaurants, gyms and venues — to check patrons’ vaccine status to slow the virus’s spread. Some spots are voluntarily closing, hoping to wait out the surge.

Chicago Public Schools expects to students to return after winter break Jan. 3, but entire classes could go virtual if they experience outbreaks and are in less-vaccinated communities, the district’s CEO said.

Hospital officials are ringing alarm bells, warning the health system could be overwhelmed as cases, hospitalizations and deaths quickly climb. Chicago hospital beds are already filling up — and the majority of patients with severe COVID-19 are unvaccinated, officials have said.

RELATED: How Can You Get Tested For COVID-19 During The Holidays? Here’s What You Need To Know

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday she expects to see a slight dip in COVID-19 numbers during the next week due to decreased testing during the holidays.

But there will be another surge after that due to people gathering and spreading COVID-19, Arwady said.

The city had already been struggling for weeks with a Delta variant-fueled surge in cases. But the Omicron variant is thought to be even more contagious; it was first detected Dec. 7 in Chicago, but it already makes up the vast majority of new cases in the city.

Researchers are still determining how effective vaccines are against the Omicron variant and if it is more or less severe than prior versions of the virus. Officials, including Arwady, have said they do expect currently available vaccines offer at least some protection from serious illness and death.

Officials have urged people to get vaccinated, get boosted and get tested to ensure they don’t spread the virus at holiday gatherings and in the weeks to come.

Arwady said people who plan to gather should get tested for COVID-19. And people should be cautious with masking, wearing masks indoors when around people who they don’t know are vaccinated, she said.

Masks are still required in indoor public places under a state order.

State officials are holding dozens of vaccination events across Illinois during the holidays to try to meet the huge demand for testing.

Here are the Chicago testing events:

  • 2-5 p.m. Dec. 23 at New Mission Temple Church of God and Christ, 4700 W. Polk St.
  • 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 23 at Greater Galilee Baptist Church, 1308 S. Independence Blvd.
  • 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Dec. 26 at 4545 W. Division St.
  • 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 26 at
  • Greater Galilee Baptist Church, 1308 S. Independence Blvd.
  • Noon-2 p.m. Dec. 27 at Grand Boulevard Prevention Services, 3847 S. Giles
  • Noon-4 p.m. Dec. 27 at Labor of Love Apostolic Church, 2800 E. 79th St.
  • 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 27 at Church of the Good Shepherd Congregational United Church of Christ, 5700 S. Prairie Ave.
  • 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 29 at Good Samaritan Community Services, 3551 W. Roosevelt Road
  • 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 2 at New Mount Pilgrim M.B. Church, 4301 W. Washington Blvd.
  • 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 2 at New Life Covenant Church Southeast, 7621 S. Greenwood Ave.


• In Illinois, about 7.6 million people — or 60.09 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 66,113 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 18,775,064 vaccine doses of the 21,153,605 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.7 million Chicagoans — or 63.8 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 70.4 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

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:

• Sixty-six Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Tuesday.

• At least 27,357 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 3,125 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 16,581 cases since Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 2,002,360.

• Since Tuesday, 199,406 tests were reported statewide. In all, 42,986,170 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 6 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 5.7 percent Tuesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 7.9 percent. It was at 7.6 percent Tuesday.

• As of Tuesday night, 867 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 451 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, eight deaths were reported since Tuesday. There have been at least 6,184 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of nine people dying per day, an 11 percent increase from last week.

• Chicago has had 4,641 confirmed cases reported since Tuesday. It’s had a total of 380,014 confirmed cases. An average of 2,069 confirmed cases are being reported per day, up 101 percent from the week prior.

• Testing in Chicago is up 5 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 8.3 percent, up from 4.2 percent the week prior.

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