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COVID hospitalizations low across the state as officials monitor a new variant

A hand puts  a vile of saliva for a COVID-19 test into a biohazard bag.
University of Illinois Springfield

While COVID-19 cases appear to be rising across the nation, the Illinois Department of Public Health said all counties remained at a low level for hospital admissions as of the end of July. The agency said it is continuing to watch COVID-19 data and monitoring other respiratory viruses, particularly flu and RSV ahead of the fall and winter seasons.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new variant is showing up. EG.5 is causing about 17% of new cases in the country, compared with 16% for the next most common lineage, XBB.1.16, according tothe latest estimates from the CDC.

“As summer winds down and another school year begins, I am reassured that COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses remain at low levels across Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “IDPH continues to closely monitor COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, but as we approach fall, our focus will be on a broad range of respiratory illnesses. With the recent approval of new tools to prevent RSV in both older individuals and infants, as well as more news to come on COVID-19 and flu vaccines, we are well positioned to avoid another ‘tripledemic.’ I encourage all Illinoisans to speak with their primary care providers on using our available tools to protect themselves and their families from flu, RSV and Covid-19.”

As the United States mark National Immunization Awareness Monththroughout August, IDPH is encouraging Illinoisans to heed recommendations from public health authorities and make plans to receive vaccinations for COVID-19 and the flu as well as the recently approved vaccine for RSV authorized for adults who are 60 and older and more vulnerable to serious outcomes. Federal authorities have also approved a new preventive medication for RSV for all children up to 8 months old and for some high risk children who are older than 8 month.

The department recently launched a new, back-to-school awareness campaign called “Don’t Wait, Get Your Kids Up-to-Date” to remind parents and guardians to schedule routine vaccinations with their children’s primary care provider ahead of the coming school year.

In June, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of a single dose of RSV vaccine for persons 60 years of age and older. In August, ACIP also recommended a new preventive treatment for infants under 8 months, a new monoclonal antibody shot. Data showed that the treatment was very effective, reducing hospitalizations in the age group by 77%.

Regarding COVID-19 boosters for fall, the FDA has directed drug manufacturers to develop a new monovalent COVID-19 booster that targets the dominant XBB.1.5 strain of the virus. ACIP is expected to issue guidance on these new vaccines in the near future.

Data indicates that the risk of hospitalization and severe outcomes from COVID-19 can be prevented by being up to date on vaccinations. Treatments for Covid-19 remain very effective in preventing hospitalization and death even with the newer variants. Additional resources and COVID-19 data can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19.html.

The federal government has established a website that provides an all-purpose toolkit with information on how to obtain masks, treatment, vaccines and testing resources for all areas of the country at: https://www.covid.gov/

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