Omicron variant confirmed in suburban Cook County resident
Cook County Department of Public Health officials announced the omicron variant has been diagnosed in at least one person recently infected with COVID-19, and they are awaiting test results to determine if other new cases contain the variant as well.
The infected resident's hometown was not released.
It is just the second case of the new variant to be diagnosed in Illinois, according to state health records.
The infected resident is considered fully vaccinated, but it's unknown if the person had received a booster, said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead attending physician at the county public health agency that covers the suburban portion of Cook County.
The person is asymptomatic and was tested only because of a close contact with someone else who had tested positive for COVID-19, Rubin said.
"The surge of delta is what's really of major concern right now. It's peaking," she said. "As this goes further, delta will begin to diminish and omicron is almost certain to overtake delta as the main variant circulating in the United States. We just don't know how long that will take."
Rubin noted that while omicron will likely take hold quickly as the predominant strain in the U.S., initial research shows it brings a milder form of the disease.
"Which is good news," Rubin said, "because it would decrease the number of deaths we see and hospitalizations as well."
Meanwhile, state health officials reported Wednesday that 3,614 COVID-19 patients were being treated in Illinois hospitals.
That's 14 fewer patients than the day prior. It's the first time the statewide COVID-19 hospitalization has declined since Nov. 25.
Of those hospitalized with the virus, 759 were in intensive care, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
IDPH officials also reported 79 more COVID-19 deaths, as well as 9,784 new cases.
That brings the state's death toll from the respiratory disease to 27,013, while 1,921,433 infections have been recorded since the outbreak began.
The state's seven-day case positivity rate is at 4.5%, up from 4% the day before.
Case positivity is the percentage of COVID-19 tests that yield a new case. A seven-day average is used to account for any anomalies in the daily reporting of those figures.
Additionally, 70,988 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Illinois, IDPH records show.
Vaccine providers in Illinois have now administered 18,322,040 doses statewide.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 63.3% of the state's 12.7 million residents are now fully vaccinated.
Rubin noted that current guidelines recommend unvaccinated individuals do not celebrate the upcoming holidays outside their households because of the threat the highly transmissible omicron poses.