As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, some experts say the country could enter a fifth wave of the virus as summer approaches.
In the past week alone, COVID cases in the state of Illinois have increased by more than 40%, while hospitalizations have also begun a slow increase, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. ‘Illinois.
“If you look at our rates, (and) if you look at, say, CDC maps, we’re right up there with the east coast,” says Dr. Sharon Welbel of Cook County Health.
The East Coast has seen a rapid increase in COVID cases in recent weeks, largely fueled by a new omicron subvariant. Many counties are now considered to be at “high community level” for the virus, with authorities warning that residents may need to take serious precautions to avoid getting sick.
“The virus mutates very easily, and it mutates frequently,” says Dr. Robert Citronberg of attorney Aurora Health. “And that’s why we have so many variations.”
Although no county in Illinois is at the “high community level” of COVID, there are 14 that are currently at a “medium community level” of the virus. That includes Cook County, as well as seven other counties in the Chicago area, according to CDC data.
Chicago and Cook County have moved from “low” to “medium” risk for COVID-19, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Friday, as cases continue to rise in the region. NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez has the story.
Statewide, Illinois now averages 5,154 new virus cases per day, a 41.6% increase from a week ago and an increase of more than 180% last month, according to IDPH data.
Hospitalizations rose just over 5% last week, with 777 Illinois patients testing positive for COVID.
These hospitalization trends, along with the fact that more than 73% of eligible state residents are fully vaccinated against COVID, give officials hope that a massive surge and potential lockdowns can be averted.
Even still, there are still fears that the numbers will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“The more people who are vaccinated, the less likely there are to be closures,” Citronberg said. “That being said, I don’t anticipate any significant closures in our area.”
While Chicago health officials are encouraging residents to wear masks indoors, they are not issuing any new mandates to that effect. If the county enters a “high community level” of the virus, then such mandates could eventually revert to align with CDC guidelines.
It is unclear, however, if such a move would occur.