IDPH: Delta variant to dominate COVID-19 cases in Illinois by fall
With the COVID-19 Delta variant "a growing presence in Illinois," officials warned vaccinated people to wear masks indoors when conditions merit it and urged shot-hesitant residents to get inoculated rather than gamble with a highly contagious strain of a deadly virus.
The number of Delta variant cases identified by the Illinois Department of Public Health reached 103 Tuesday, a 61% increase in two weeks compared with 64 cases on June 15.
"Looking at the speed at which the Delta variant has spread in other countries, and the current trajectory here, we anticipate the Delta variant will be the dominant strain in Illinois by fall," Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.
At an event Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker pointed to Israel, saying it "leads the world in vaccinations" and has reinstated the indoor mask mandate and other mitigations because of the Delta variant influx. The country has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated children under 16.
The variant is "a growing presence in Illinois," Pritzker said. "Each additional person that gets vaccinated makes our state, towns, and neighborhoods that much safer."
The governor also recommended carrying masks for use indoors in crowded situations where it's unclear whether people are vaccinated.
"We're all making judgment calls when we leave home every day," Pritzker said. "I would say from my own perspective, if you're going to a heavily crowded area -- you don't know if somebody is not vaccinated, so you should just bring your mask with you, and keep safe."
About 7.3% of all variants of concern reported from June 15 through 27 were the Delta variant, Arnold said Monday. "This compares to the nationwide average of 9.5%."
In the United Kingdom, widespread vaccinations helped drop new COVID-19 infections from 60,000 a day in January to 2,000 on May 7, Edward Hospital's Dr. Jonathan Pinsky said. But by June 7, the country was up to 7,000 cases a day, with "90% due to the Delta variant."
Early evidence suggests the Delta variant can be more virulent than other versions, Pinsky said. "An early analysis suggests the likelihood of hospitalization in patients infected with the Delta variant is twice that compared to those infected with the Alpha variant," one of the first COVID-19 mutations.
Illinois has recorded 9,766 variant cases so far and 6,532 comprise the Alpha variant, which originated in the United Kingdom.
However, it appears current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta strain, experts said.
Why haven't authorities detected more variants? While standard COVID-19 tests can produce results in 24 hours or less, identifying a variant is complex, Pinsky explained.
"Each state collects samples from labs across the state to do genomic sequencing to look for variants," he said. "It takes a while to get results."