Omicron variant detected in Chicago becomes first case in Illinois
Illinois Department of Public Health officials have confirmed the first state case of COVID-19 caused by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The case was reported in a Chicago resident who was fully vaccinated with a booster dose and had contact with someone visiting from out of state confirmed to be infected with the variant. The Chicagoan experienced mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization, IDPH officials said late Tuesday afternoon, and is self-isolating and improving.
The omicron variant has become worrisome for health experts because of the large number of mutations in the virus's protein spike, which is how humans are infected.
The omicron variant was first identified nearly two weeks ago in South Africa.
"I'm hopeful that what is now a surge of the delta variant that is filling our hospitals will abate over time and we'll be able to manage omicron, which so far appears to be a little less virulent, so people are not getting as sick with omicron, although it does seem to transmit more easily," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at an event in Maywood Tuesday. "So again, I want to encourage everybody to please get vaccinated."
Illinois health officials also recorded large single-day surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths Tuesday, while the state's seven-day case positivity rate appears to have leveled off after last week's explosive growth.
Hospitals throughout Illinois added 187 more COVID-19 patients from the day before, the largest single-day growth since November 2020, according to Illinois Department of Public Health records.
IDPH officials also said about 30 of the 78 additional COVID-19 deaths reported Tuesday were due to a one-time change in the collection time of that information.
"That caused (about 30) deaths to be captured today that would typically be reported tomorrow," said IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold. "However, we are seeing an increasing trend in deaths."
The 78 deaths recorded were the most in a single day since Feb. 11, according to IDPH figures.
With Tuesday's tally, the state is now averaging 41 deaths a day over the past week, a 137% increase from the 17 daily COVID-19 deaths the state was averaging just a week ago.
State health officials are reporting 3,029 COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospitals throughout Illinois, a 27.3% increase from a week ago, IDPH records show.
Among those hospitalized, IDPH figures show, 610 COVID-19 patients were being treated in an ICU, the most since Jan. 23.
Pritzker also addressed the surge in hospitalizations at Tuesday's event.
"I spoke this morning with leaders of hospitals all across the state to hear from them the challenges they have," he said. "We are providing assistance to all of those hospitals -- first to keep people out of hospitals using monoclonal antibodies, treatments that people can get without going into a hospital bed. We're also helping the staffs to make sure they can keep going during this surge."
And of the 187 additional patients reported Tuesday, 13 were admitted to Edward Hospital in Naperville, where the COVID-19 patient count went from 30 to 43 in one day.
"The patients we're seeing are predominantly unvaccinated, far and away," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital in Naperville. "Over 90% of the patients in this latest surge we've seen in the past few weeks are unvaccinated."
Pinsky added that the median age of the hospital's COVID-19 patients continues to drop and is now at 48. He said many patients are avoiding hospitalization because of infusions of monoclonal antibodies, but anyone with respiratory problems requiring additional oxygen usually gets admitted.
Pinsky also noted that many patients reported exposures at indoor social situations.
"I can see a straight line between family gatherings, like Thanksgiving, and their symptoms," he said.
Meanwhile, the state's seven-day case positivity rate appears to have leveled off. It's currently at 4.6%, down from 4.7%, where it had been the past two days, according to IDPH records.
On Nov. 26, the state's seven-day case positivity rate was slightly below 3.4% but had spiked to 4.7% in less than a week. Case positivity is the percentage of tests that result in a new case of the disease being diagnosed, and a seven-day average is used to account for any anomalies in the daily reporting of those figures.
Additionally, IDPH officials also reported 62,601 more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide.
Vaccine providers in Illinois have now administered 17,768,693 doses since they became available nearly a year ago.
IDPH figures show 58.8% of the state's 12.7 million residents are now fully vaccinated. That includes 96,888 children ages 5 to 11, or 8.8% of that age group, which was not eligible for the vaccine until last month.
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.