Cook County moves into low COVID-19 transmission level. Now look out for the flu.

Cook County and Chicago moved into the low category for COVID-19 transmissions, officials announced Friday.

That's the first time since early May, the Cook County Department of Public Health noted. DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will were already in the low transmission contingent.

The IDPH reported that more than 137,000 doses of new bivalent vaccines that target the highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 COVID-19 variants were administered in the last week. The total of bivalent jabs given across Illinois is 341,000.

“I am so pleased to see our region move into a Low COVID-19 Level, because hitting this threshold means that fewer Chicagoans are being hospitalized with COVID-19 every day,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Alison Arwardy said.

But she cautioned, “COVID is very much still with us.”

That was echoed by Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital Medical Director Michael Bauer, who also warned of a heavy flu season in other countries that could hit the U.S.

“We tend to follow trends in other countries,” Bauer said, noting Australia had “a hard and early influenza season. They experienced flu come back with a vengeance.

“It's been at really low levels in previous years due to COVID and mitigation strategies. But the concern is we will be headed for a potentially bad influenza season based on what we've seen in other parts of the world.”

He urged individuals to get both COVID-19 and flu shots.

With many COVID-19 mitigations lifted, “it really puts an extra burden on everyone to be a good citizen,” said Bauer, a pediatrician.

“Keep children if home when they are sick. Make sure they are tested if there is a known (COVID-19) exposure. Everyone needs to do their part to try and ensure we don't go backward and start hitting those higher levels.”

The September daily average for COVID-19 new cases stands at nearly 2,771 compared to 3,760 in August, a 26% decrease, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.

There were 2,210 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday, and 12 people died.

Hospitalizations reached 1,069 as of Thursday night, and daily averages of patients over the last week came to 1,136. The previous seven-day average was 1,261 from Sept. 9 to 15, or a nearly 10% difference.

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