COVID-19 update: 69,029 more get vaccine, 102 more deaths; S. Africa strain in Illinois
With the first Illinois case of a more infectious strain of COVID-19 that originated in South Africa announced Thursday, officials are urging residents to stay vigilant about pandemic basics like wearing masks and social distancing.
A Rock Island resident was diagnosed with the South African variant, which was first reported in the U.S. in January.
Also Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 69,029 more people received COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday, bringing the state's total to more than 1.5 million. The seven-day average for shots is 56,094.
Another 102 Illinoisans died of COVID-19 and 2,838 people were diagnosed with the respiratory disease Thursday.
The state already has 22 cases of a COVID-19 variant originating in the United Kingdom, including one in Lake County. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials predict it may become the dominant strain in the nation by the end of March.
"These variants seem to spread more rapidly, which can lead to more cases of COVID-19 and even another surge," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said. "Our best path to defeating this virus as quickly as possible remains wearing our masks and getting vaccinated when it's our turn."
The federal government has delivered 2,385,950 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 1,549,108 doses have been administered.
So far, 346,773 people -- 2.72% of the state's population -- have been fully vaccinated. Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. require two doses several weeks apart.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said trials have shown existing vaccines offered diminished protection against mild to moderate symptoms of the South African COVID-19 variant, called B.1.351, but provided a significant barrier against developing a serious illness.
"When you looked at serious disease, severe disease, particularly hospitalizations and deaths, there was rather substantial protection" against the South African strain with vaccines, Fauci said at a Wednesday briefing, "in fact, with no hospitalizations or deaths in vaccinated individuals who were infected with the 351."
Illinois hospitals were treating 1,954 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday night.
The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is 3.3%.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,155,833 and 19,841 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 96,525 virus tests in the last 24 hours.