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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New COVID Variant, Masking Urged Once Again

NBC Chicago logo NBC Chicago 7/12/2022
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum vaccination site, serving children six months to 5-Years old, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Thursday, June 23, 2022. Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5 years old were authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday, a welcome relief to parents of the last age group to become eligible for shots. © Bloomberg via Getty Images

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum vaccination site, serving children six months to 5-Years old, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Thursday, June 23, 2022. Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5 years old were authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday, a welcome relief to parents of the last age group to become eligible for shots.

As doctors urge the public to return to masking guidelines with the rapid spread of BA.4 and BA.5, a new, super contagious COVID variant is also raising concerns.

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

Chicago's Top Doc Expects New COVID Variant Detected in US to Spread

There's a new ultra-contagious omicron subvariant making its way into headlines even as the highly-transmissible BA.5 variant continues its global spread. And though the newest mutation isn't in Chicago just yet, the city's top doc said more cases in the U.S. are expected.

Scientists say the variant – called BA.2.75 – may be able to spread rapidly and get around immunity from vaccines and previous infection. It’s unclear whether it could cause more serious disease than other omicron variants, including the globally prominent BA.5.

"It's about a quarter of the cases right now in India. It's sort of competing with BA.5 there," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "It does look to be contagious, at this point doesn't look to be more serious, but we're still learning. It's not been named a variant of concern at this point. So we're watching it just like we watch other variants."

Read more here.

How Are COVID Symptoms Shifting With New Variants? Here's What Chicago's Top Doc Says

As the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 COVID-19 subvariants take over the U.S., some people are seeing new signs and symptoms surrounding the virus.

The new variants aren't offering a major change in symptoms, however, but Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook live event Tuesday that doctors are seeing additional signs.

"Nothing really significantly different, I would say, but just more symptoms. It's a more virulent infection," Arwady said.

Read more here.

Dr. Sameer Vohra Named New Director of Illinois Department of Public Health

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has appointed Dr. Sameer Vohra to head up the Illinois Department of Public Health, replacing Dr. Ngozi Ezike in that role.

Vohra, a pediatrician and healthcare policy expert who holds degrees in both law and public policy, will officially take over the role on Aug. 1, Pritzker said in a statement.

Read more here.

The First Thing You Should Do After COVID Diagnosis, According to Chicago's Top Doc

With the spread of several new subvariants of omicron, Chicago’s top doctor is offering advice to residents in the event that they test positive for COVID-19.

Speaking during her weekly “Ask Arwady” session, CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady offered her advice for residents who may test positive for COVID in coming weeks and months, including the very first thing they should do after that diagnosis.

Read more here.

Can You Get a Second COVID Booster Shot? Here's Who Is Eligible

As new, highly-transmissible COVID variants spread across the U.S., in some cases evading immunity from earlier infections, many are wondering if they are eligible for a booster shot and, if so, when?

Currently, not everyone is eligible for a second COVID booster shot, but experts are urging anyone who has not yet received their first booster dose to get one.

So who is eligible for which shots and what do we know about what's ahead?

Here's the latest.

Doctor Urges Public to Wear Face Masks as BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron Subvariants Spread

Two highly-transmissible mutations of the omicron COVID-19 variant are gaining traction across the country, including in the Chicago area, leading some doctors to recommended the use of face masks indoors once again.

The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants now account for the majority of new COVID cases in the U.S., according to health officials. As of July 2, the subvariant BA.5 was responsible for nearly 54% of COVID cases. BA.4 accounted for nearly 17% more, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.

Read more here.

New Highly Contagious Coronavirus Mutant BA.2.75 Raises Concerns

The quickly changing coronavirus has spawned yet another super contagious omicron mutant that’s worrying scientists as it gains ground in India and pops up in numerous other countries, including the United States.

Scientists say the variant – called BA.2.75 – may be able to spread rapidly and get around immunity from vaccines and previous infection. It’s unclear whether it could cause more serious disease than other omicron variants, including the globally prominent BA.5.

“It’s still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “But it does look like, especially in India, the rates of transmission are showing kind of that exponential increase." Whether it will outcompete BA.5, he said, is yet to be determined.

Read more here.

How Long Does COVID Immunity Last? Here's What Doctors Say Amid New BA.5 Subvariant Concerns

Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 reinfections are no longer uncommon, with more new variants emerging and leading to questions about immunity.

The omicron variant has led to a major shift in "natural immunity," with many who had previously been infected susceptible to reinfection with the variant, as well as its faster spreading subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5.

Read more here.

How Long Does it Take for COVID Booster Shot to Start Working? Here's What Research Says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long touted the success of COVID-19 booster shots in decreasing the risk of severe illness, encouraging those eligible to get boosted as soon as possible.

As two new omicron subvariants, said to be the fastest spreading strains yet, circulate around the globe, health officials widely argue receiving a booster shot is a crucial part of reducing infection risk and curbing the pandemic.

For those who have yet to get boosted, people considering a second dose and parents planning to get their children boosted, there may be some lingering questions.

Read more here.

Latest on Super Contagious Omicron Subvariant BA.5

A highly-transmissible mutation of the omicron COVID variant known as BA.5 is raising concerns globally as it continues to gain traction in several countries, sparking new waves of cases and, in some instances, hospitalizations.

The rise in case rates, even as metrics remain uncertain due to at-home COVID test availability, has sparked warnings and renewed calls for masking in some locations.

So what is it about the new variant that makes it particularly concerning and what should you be watching for?

Here's what we know so far.

What Should You Do When You Have COVID? Here's What Health Officials Say

As two more contagious omicron subvariants take hold across the U.S., you may be wondering what steps to take if you test positive for COVID-19.

The subvariants known as BA.4 and BA.5 appear to evade protection from vaccines and previous infections more easily than any others before.

As of July 2, BA.5 was responsible for nearly 54% of COVID cases in the U.S. BA.4 accounted for nearly 17% more, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here.

BA.4 and BA.5 COVID Symptoms: What to Watch For as Infections Climb

The fastest-spreading COVID-19 subvariants yet, the two latest versions of omicron appear to evade protection from vaccines and previous infections more easily than any others before.

As of July 2, the subvariant BA.5 was responsible for nearly 54% of COVID cases in the U.S. BA.4, a similar subvariant, accounted for nearly 17% more, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here.

COVID Exposure Guidelines: Here's How Long to Quarantine After Close Contact, Testing Positive

As infectious new subvariants of COVID-19 take over the U.S., how long should you quarantine from others if you've been exposed to the virus or test positive?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any person who comes into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID should quarantine, if not up to date on vaccinations.

Read more here.

First COVID Symptoms: How to Recognize the Onset of the Virus

After recent declines in COVID cases, several subvariants of omicron are making significant gains in the United States, with some studies indicating that they could potentially do a better job of evading existing vaccines and immunity.

According to the latest updates from the CDC, the BA.5 lineage of the omicron variant is now the most prevalent strain of the virus in the United States, responsible for nearly 54% of cases.

With those case trends, many individuals are curious about what symptoms typically appear first with a COVID infection, and how quickly those symptoms can appear.

Read more here.

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