Will border states' COVID-19 uptick affect Illinois?
While Illinois is enjoying one of the lowest per capita rates of new COVID-19 cases in the country, most bordering states are on the opposite end of that spectrum.
Illinois is averaging 12.3 new cases a day over the past week for every 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures released Friday.
By comparison, Missouri's rate is seven times higher at 86.1 new cases for every 100,000 residents. Indiana's rate is double that of Illinois. And both Iowa and Kentucky are reporting higher rates than Illinois, as well.
"We know the virus that causes COVID-19, and its variants, do not recognize borders -- city, county, state, or international," said Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. "Therefore, it is important for as many people as possible to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals who do not wear masks, avoid crowded settings, or keep social distance are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the virus."
Wisconsin is the only border state with a lower seven-day per capita new case rate than Illinois at 10.9 new cases for every 100,000 residents, CDC figures show.
Illinois is leading all of its neighbors in vaccination rates. Of those eligible to receive vaccines, which is anyone 12 and older, 68.4% in Illinois have received at least one dose, CDC records show. Just 14 states in the nation have higher rates than Illinois.
Missouri and Indiana report only 52.1% of their eligible populations has received at least one vaccine shot. The rate is 62% in Wisconsin, 60.2% in Iowa and 57.6% in Kentucky.
Also, Illinois is averaging 222 new cases a day statewide over the past week, CDC data show. Missouri and Indiana, despite significantly fewer residents than Illinois, are averaging higher daily numbers of new cases this week at 755 and 236, respectively.
Health officials blame the lack of vaccinations and growing predominance of the more transmissible delta variant of the virus for the explosion of new cases in Missouri.
While vaccines are helping keep most variants at bay, there is concern that future mutations could thwart the vaccine and another pandemic would ensue.
"As long as the virus is allowed to circulate because of unvaccinated people's irresponsible behavior, it can mutate and potentially put us all at risk," Arnold said.
Dr. Robert Murphy, a professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern, told WGN News on Friday that a new "delta-plus" variant could wreak even more havoc, and that 83 cases of that new mutation already have been diagnosed in the U.S., although current vaccines appear to ward off the variants.
"It's more transmissible, more lung disease, it's really unfortunate," he said. "It makes it much worse than the original delta virus."