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Illinois Watching Spread Of BA.2 Variant, But State Is ‘In A Good Place,’ Pritzker Says

The state's replenished its stockpile of medical supplies, and it has more than 1.5 million rapid tests and another half-million arriving in the coming weeks, Gov. JB Pritzker said.

A technician gives instruction as folks line up for free COVID-19 tests at Pritzker College Prep in Chicago's Hermosa neighborhood on Monday, November 30, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — State officials are keeping a close eye on COVID-19’s BA.2 sub-variant as it spreads in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

BA.2 is an even more contagious sub-variant of Omicorn, the version of COVID-19 that sent cases to record highs in Illinois in late December and early January. The sub-variant was detected here in Illinois, and it’s estimated it accounts for about 25 percent of current COVID-19 cases in Illinois, Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference.

Despite BA.2 making up a rising percentage of cases in Illinois, there has not been a proportional uptick in reported cases and hospitalizations, Pritzker said.

“Illinois is currently in a good place,” Pritzker said. “That said, [the state health department] is watching the trend of this sub-variant very closely. The virus is very much still here and with us, and it isn’t going away.”

The state’s replenished its stockpile of medical supplies, and it has more than 1.5 million rapid tests and another half-million arriving in the coming weeks, Pritzker said.

The governor also called on schools to look at how much COVID-19 testing they can do and to prepare to do more if there’s another surge.

“If conditions here change, I’ll address the people of Illinois with needed action,” Pritzker said.

Chicago’s officials have also said they’re keeping an eye on BA.2’s spread in the city, though they’re not yet alarmed.

The sub-variant has spread rapidly in Europe, driving up cases to near-record or even record levels in several countries, according to The New York Times.

Chicago health Commissioner Dr. Arwady said this week her agency is 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.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8.1 million people — or 64.2 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 7,954 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,294,461 vaccine doses of the 25,698,845 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69.8 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 77.1 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 Friday, 18 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,216 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,263 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 2,451 cases since Friday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,055,636.

• Since Friday, 226,766 tests were reported statewide. In all, 56,555,145 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 Friday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 1.3 percent. It was at 1.2 percent Friday.

• As of Sunday night, 97 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 41 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, three deaths were reported since Friday. There have been at least 7,322 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than one person dying per day, down 58 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 550 confirmed cases reported since Froday. It’s had a total of 563,375 confirmed cases. An average of 135 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 1 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 7 percent from a week ago.

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

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