We still have the pandemic to deal with -- and COVID-19 fatigue
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, there have been a series of mutations from the original strain -- delta, omicron, and now BA.2.
But one constant that's followed each virus surge -- and that is surfacing now without a scientific rebranding -- is COVID-19 fatigue.
And as cases of the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant of omicron rise, that's a challenging dynamic for public health agencies to navigate.
The Illinois Department of Public Health "advises the public to remain vigilant," officials urged residents in a release Friday, noting that case rates are no longer dropping.
The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases was nearly 1,541 Friday, or about 28% higher than the tally of 1,204 a week ago. But hospitalizations increased by just 5%, or an average of nearly 498 patients as of Thursday compared with 471 on March 31.
Asked if the zeitgeist has reached a level of not taking COVID-19 seriously, NorthShore Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital Medical Director Michael Bauer diagnosed a recurring case of COVID-19 fatigue.
During the record-breaking omicron outbreak of December and January, "so many people got it, and fortunately for the vast majority who were vaccinated and boosted, it amounted to 'I got another flu bug,'" Bauer said.
"Many of the cases during that recent surge were of a milder variant, so I think people started to look and say, 'OK, it's not as big a deal if I get COVID at this point.'"
And among some who are fully vaccinated and protected, the sentiment can be "if I get it -- I get it. And if I get it, yay for me, now I have immunity," Bauer said.
But "we're still in a pandemic," he said. "There's still close to 30,000 new cases a day (in the U.S.) that are reported."
IDPH officials advised residents to get vaccinated and schedule booster shots if eligible.
For those in areas with rising COVID-19 rates, the state recommends wearing a mask indoors in public places and avoiding large gatherings.
Most of the state remains in low-transmission status, with the exception of Hardin, Gallatin, Pope and Saline counties in southern Illinois, the CDC reported.
For people who are older or immunocompromised, Bauer suggested wearing a high-quality mask such as an N95 indoors in crowded public spaces.
"One thing we have all learned is we don't know what the virus is going to do next," he said.
New cases of COVID-19 numbered 2,312 Friday with 11 more people dying from the respiratory disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Patients in the hospital with COVID-19 came to 502 as of Thursday night.
On Thursday, 22,031 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 19,926.
The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 2.1% based on a seven-day average.
So far, 8,664,361 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or 68.4% of the state's 12.7 million population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's.
Of those people who are fully vaccinated, 50.4% have received a booster shot.
Total cases statewide stand at 3,080,436, and 33,465 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
The federal government has delivered 26,089,945 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December 2020, and 21,509,463 shots have been administered.
Labs processed 106,376 virus tests in the last 24 hours.