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As Latest COVID-19 Variant Spreads, Illinois Health Officials Focus on Treatment

With the most contagious version of coronavirus yet spreading across Illinois and the country, it appears Americans have decided to carry on their daily lives.  

Masking is rare in indoor places, and there is no talk of any mandates being considered. Many Illinoisans would probably ignore it. A recent Patch survey showed 63% of those who responded said they never wear masks in public, and 44% would refuse to wear a mask and nothing could change their mind.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced over 3,800 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, but it is unclear how many involved the new BA.5 variant. The new variant is estimated to make up more than 80% of new cases, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

With the widespread availability of at-home test kits, most positive results don’t get reported to the state and therefore aren’t included in Illinois’ officials case count. Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, said the numbers are insignificant and a person’s response after testing positive is key.

“Quarantining, letting your contacts know, getting Paxlovid early, all of that is much more important than us being able to count every single case,” said Arwady. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is double vaccinated and double boosted, recently contracted COVID-19 and is on the antiviral medication Paxlovid. A spokesman for IDPH said the medication is available at over 1,400 pharmacies statewide and is free of charge.  

IDPH has cited studies that suggest that Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization by as much as 89%. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the treatment for any individuals that are 12 years of age or older and are at high risk of severe illness.

A sign the latest virus variant may pose less of a threat is that despite its high transmission level, the number of COVID-related deaths in Illinois has remained flat. During the winter surge there was an average of 130 deaths per day. That number is closer to 10 now.  

Testing requirements are still evident with some agencies. Beginning this week, until further notice, officials said everyone entering Springfield IEMA buildings will be required to take a COVID test. 

The CDC on Tuesday signed off on Novavax’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine as a primary series for adults, offering people who are unvaccinated a choice to receive a shot based on conventional technology in use for more than 30 years.

Sixty-five percent of Illinois’ population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and about half of that population has received a booster, according to IDPH statistics.

***Courtesy of the Illinois Radio Network***

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