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Chicago’s Top Doc ‘Concerned’ About Rising COVID Cases In Europe, But Experts Say No Need For Alarm In US Yet

Dr. Allison Arwady also said she expects to see some bump in cases as people relax and restrictions are lifted, but Chicago is currently at low risk for 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 — Officials are warning people to remain cautious as the COVID-19 surge in Europe could be a preview of what’s to come to the United States.

An Omicron sub-variant, BA.2, has spread rapidly in Europe, driving up cases to near-record or even record levels in several countries, according to The New York Times. Time and again during the pandemic, what’s happened in Europe previewed what was soon to happen in the United States.

For example, when Omicron drove up surges in the United Kingdom — only for those cases to then rapidly fall — Chicago’s officials watched that wave to get an idea of how Omicron could affect Chicago. At the time, Chicago’s health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, said the United States — and, with it, Chicago — tended to lag a few weeks or months behind the United Kingdom during various waves of the pandemic.

Within weeks, Chicago was hit hard by the Omicron surge, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocketing.

Arwady said this week her agency is again watching Europe for an idea of what could happen here. Europe is not doing well, she said during a Tuesday livestream, and she’s concerned about what’s happening there.

BA.2 has been found in Chicago, and it has made up and increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the city as the weeks have passed. But the initial Omicron variant remains the dominant version of COVID-19 being found in Chicagoans.

For now, people should just be cautious, not necessarily alarmed, experts told The Times. They advised people to get vaccinated and get a booster shot to ensure they’ll be protected if BA.2 does fuel another wave of COVID-19 in the United States.

Chicago’s daily cases of COVID-19 and its positivity rate have plummeted from the record highs they hit during the initial Omicron wave, and they remain low. The city’s now seeing fewer than 200 new cases per day and is near its lowest-ever positivity rate since the pandemic began.

But the metrics have gone relatively flat in recent days, showing little downward progress.

Arwady also said she expects to see some bump in cases as people relax and restrictions are lifted, but Chicago is currently at low risk for COVID-19.

And there are signs for hope: While cases might be up in parts of Europe, hospitalizations have not yet gone up significantly, and vaccines remain effective against the BA.2 sub-variant, according to the Times report.

Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city’s officials will keep watching the variant and will bring back restrictions if needed to protect Chicagoans.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8.1 million people — or 64.14 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 8,205 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,265,540 vaccine doses of the 25,651,245 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69.7 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 77 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:

• Since Wednesday, 16 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,180 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,258 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 1,150 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,051,797.

• Since Wednesday, 94,482 tests were reported statewide. In all, 56,195,999 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 1.3 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 1.4 percent. It was at 1.4 percent Wednesday.

• As of Wednesday night, 89 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 38 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, three deaths were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 7,319 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than one person dying per day, down 42 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 256 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 562,491 confirmed cases. An average of 134 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 5 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 8 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at .7 percent, unchanged from a week ago.

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