CHICAGO (WMBD) — Over half of the counties in Illinois are now at an elevated risk for COVID-19 exposure as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported over 20,000 new cases of the disease in the last seven days.

According to a press release Friday, IDPH is reporting 20,495 new confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days. There have been 57 COVID-19 deaths in the same time frame.

As case numbers increase, IDPH reported that the CDC has elevated 63 counties in Illinois to either medium or high levels of COVID-19, up from 46 last week. This week, 12 counties are at a high community level and 51 are at a medium level.

In counties at the medium community level, such as Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, Woodford, and McLean, elderly or immunocompromised people at risk of severe outcomes are advised to wear a mask in indoor public places. They should also get up to date on COVID-19 vaccines or get their bivalent booster, if eligible.

The CDC recommends the following measures for people in areas that are rated at high community level for COVID-19 transmission, including Knox, Logan, and Warren counties:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings)
  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease: Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take other precautions, have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing), and talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, and monoclonal antibodies
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease: Consider self-testing to detect infection before contact and consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19

“As we enter December and the weather continues to get colder, Illinois is beginning to see an anticipated increase in COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses such as the flu,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “Please continue to take all preventative measure to protect yourself, your family, and friends, especially very young children and individuals over 65 who are most vulnerable to severe outcomes. These effective strategies include COVID-19 testing, especially if visiting someone at risk for severe disease; enhanced ventilation; good hand hygiene; staying home if sick; and getting up to date with both the COVID-19 bivalent booster and the flu shot.”

Dr. Vohra also noted that those who test positive for COVID-19 should immediately contact their healthcare provider to discuss whether they need treatment with one of the effective antiviral medications, Paxlovid, Lagverio and Remdesivir. All of these have been found to work against the current strains of the virus.

Through Project ACT, IDPH will be distributing one million at-home antigen tests to 200,000 Illinois families in zip codes outside the City of Chicago that are rated high on a Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). Households can find out if they are in an eligible zip code and request one package of five tests on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Project ACT website. The tests will be delivered to the home address.

Free or low cost COVID-19 testing locations are also available throughout the state, including in Chicago, and can be found on the IDPH website’s testing locator page.