State omicron cases at 16: Cook County urges businesses to require vaccinated or tested patrons

  • So far, 7,617,050 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or nearly 60% of the state's 12.7 million population.

    So far, 7,617,050 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or nearly 60% of the state's 12.7 million population. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 12/17/2021 6:56 PM

With 16 cases of the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 diagnosed in Illinois and infections rising, Cook County officials Friday urged precautions such as vaccination requirements or negative tests to enter businesses in order to tamp down the latest surge.

The omicron cases announced by the Illinois Department of Public Health are a jump from Wednesday's tally of two involving a Chicagoan and one suburban Cook resident.


Of the 16 cases, a number are located in suburban Cook. Asked how many, "there are fewer than 10 cases, including the original case," Cook County Department of Public Health spokesman Tom McFeeley said. "Some, but not all, are connected to the first case."

IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said experts anticipate that "with the high level of transmissibility, omicron could begin circling widely." The best ways to protect against infections are getting COVID-19 shots and boosters, masking in public spaces indoors, social distancing and avoiding crowds, she said.

Cook public health officials went further, recommending that business establishments require "patrons to be fully vaccinated for entry" or show proof of a recent negative COVID test.

The caution particularly applies to large spaces where people are close together and may remove masks, such as sporting events or concerts. Officials also advised employers scheduling holiday parties to keep them virtual.

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One bright spot is that although data from South Africa, where the variant first was reported, indicates omicron cases have dramatically increased, "their hospitalizations haven't dramatically increased," said Dr. Temitope Oyedele, an infectious disease specialist with Cook County Health. "But it's still early."

Rather than worry, Oyedele advised individuals to be "aware. Adjust your behavior based on the knowledge of what's going on," he said.

The actual number of omicron cases is higher than 16, Oyedele added, because only a small number of positive COVID-19 tests undergo genomic sequencing to identify variants.

In Illinois, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases jumped by 19% in two weeks. From Dec. 11 to Friday, the daily average was 8,473 new infections, compared to 7,095.4 from Dec. 4 to 10.


New cases of COVID-19 totaled 10,765 Friday with 52 more people dying from the respiratory disease, the IDPH reported.

Patients in the hospital with COVID-19 came to 3,783 as of Thursday night.

On Thursday, 72,515 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 66,816.

The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases rose from 4.7% Thursday to 4.9% based on a seven-day average.

So far, 7,617,050 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or nearly 60% of the state's 12.7 million population. For Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, that means two doses several weeks apart.

The federal government has delivered 21,212,415 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 18,475,621 shots have been administered.

Total cases statewide stand at 1,944,056, and 27,117 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.

Labs processed 210,023 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

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