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All counties at low level for COVID-19

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Radoslav Zilinsky
Getty Images
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

This month, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that hospital admission rates for COVID-19 infection remain at low (less than 10 admissions per 100,000 people) levels in all 102 counties.This statistic, combined with the fact that only 20.3% of Illinois residents are up-to-date on their COVID-19 booster, suggests the pandemic isn’t demanding swift action by public health authorities or citizens at the moment.

“I am very happy and relieved to report that COVID-19 cases remain low as we continue the summer season,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said. “IDPH’s focus remains on closely monitoring COVID-19, along with other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV-19, in anticipation of a fall and winter when infections will likely increase. The Department will continue to work closely with our partners to provide the most up to date guidance on vaccines and treatments that can decrease transmission and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”

The Centers for Disease Control and IDPH are monitoring COVID-19 trends by measuring the presence of the virus in wastewater in addition to other existing surveillance methods. In Illinois, the data is posted by the Illinois Wastewater Surveillance System, which tracks COVID-19 and influenza in wastewater at 76 locations.

A group within the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is working alongside the FDA to determine the necessity of boosting in the seasons to come.

Nevertheless, the IDPH reminds Illinoisans that COVID-19 booster vaccines remain available, free of charge, through the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program, the Medicaid Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and healthcare coverage plans. This season's COVID booster will be effective against the XBB 1.5 strain, which is a descendant of the omicron variant and currently the most dominant.

Additionally, Illinoisans residing outside Chicago are eligible for Project ACT, an IDPH program that distributes 5 COVID-19 testing kits upon request, while supplies last. Chicagoans can access kits through Increasing Community Access to Testing, or ICATT, which is a CDC run program.

In addition to the COVID-19 status update, the IDPH forwards the CDC’s guidelines and recommendations regarding influenza and RSV vaccination best practices. These guidelines arrive in the wake of the 2022-2023 flu season that resulted in over 900 ICU admissions and 7 pediatric deaths. CDC ACIP suggests that all eligible persons older than 6 months should receive the yearly flu vaccine. To quell concerns regarding allergies, ACIP makes it known that there are non egg-based flu vaccines available. On the RSV front, the monoclonal antibody nirsevimab is pending FDA approval.

If nirsevimab is approved in 2023, it could become the next prophylactic vaccine for the 23-24 RSV season and would be administered to newborns.

Given the low level of transmission statewide, IDPH will continue a monthly system of reporting COVID-19 data.

Kyle is a student reporter for NPR Illinois.
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