As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, some experts say the country could be entering a fifth wave of the virus as summer approaches.
In the past week alone, COVID cases in the state of Illinois are up more than 40%, while hospitalizations have also slowly started to rise, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“If you look at our rates, (and) if you look at, say, the CDC maps, we’re right up there with the East Coast,” says Dr. Sharon Welbel of Cook County Health.
The East Coast has been seeing rapid increases in COVID cases in recent weeks, largely driven by a new subvariant of omicron. Numerous counties are now considered to be at a “high community level” of the virus, with officials warning that residents may need to take serious precautions to avoid getting sick.
“The virus mutates very easily and frequently,” says Dr. Robert Citronberg of Advocate Aurora Health. “And that’s why we have so many variants.”
While no counties in Illinois are 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 Chicago-area counties, according to CDC data.
Both Chicago and Cook County have moved from “low” to “medium” risk of COVID-19, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Friday, as cases continue to rise throughout the area. NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez has the story.
Statewide, Illinois is now averaging 5,154 new cases of the virus per day, a 41.6% increase from a week ago and an increase of more than 180% in the past month, according to IDPH data.
Hospitalizations are up just over 5% in the past week, with 777 Illinois patients testing positive for COVID.
Those hospitalization trends, coupled with the fact that more than 73% of eligible state residents are fully vaccinated against COVID, give officials some hope that a massive surge and potential closures can be averted.
Still, there is still concern that the numbers will continue to trend higher in the coming weeks.
“The more people get vaccinated, the less likely there are to be closures,” Citronberg said. “That said, I do not 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, it is possible that such mandates will fall back in line with CDC guidelines.
However, it is unknown if such a move would occur.