20 Illinois counties at elevated COVID-19 risk

20 Illinois counties at elevated COVID-19 risk

People at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should take precautions in 20 Illinois counties, according to the most recent federal data.

No counties are at a level where health officials recommend indoor masking in public, compared to three the prior week.

Last week, XBB.1.5 surpassed BQ.1.1 as the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Variant proportions were:

XBB.1.5: 36.5 percent, up 11.3 percentage points.
BQ.1.1: 36.3 percent, down 4.7 percentage points from the prior week.
BQ.1: 14.7 percent, down 3.4 percentage points.

Other COVID-19 lineages were circulating at less than 5 percent each.

Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said they continue to monitor the XBB.1.5 “kraken” variant and its effect on the state’s COVID-19 rates.

“At this moment, it is not leading to an increase in hospitalizations,” he said. “Concerns remain about this variant, but new data released by the CDC shows that the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster is protective against it — reducing the risk of symptoms by nearly half.”

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady echoed those concerns. She said she’s overall “pleased” with the current trends.

“But we are still seeing cases, hospitalizations and about one Chicagoan dying every day from COVID-19,” she said. “We know the virus continues to evolve, and we don’t entirely know what the future holds.”

As of Thursday, 999 Illinoisans were in the hospital with COVID-19, down 52 from Wednesday and down 221 from the prior week.

There have been a total of 4,019,768 cases and 36,091 deaths in Illinois.

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