CHICAGO — Just after the third anniversary of Illinois’ first reported COVID-19 case, new data shows that there could be a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced in a press release Friday that a majority of Illinois’ 102 counties are now at a low community risk level for the spread of COVID-19.

IDPH reported that the CDC has designated only 20 counties in Illinois to either medium or high levels of COVID-19, down from 68 counties last week. This week, there are no counties are at a high community level. All 20 counties are at a medium level.

According to their press release, IDPH is reporting 10,924 new confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 between Jan. 16 and Jan. 22. There have been 86 COVID-19 deaths in the same time frame.

Central Illinois counties have dropped down to a low community level of COVID-19.

From the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website

As of Thursday night, 999 individuals in Illinois were reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19. 117 were in the ICU and 45 were on ventilators.

“It is good news that COVID-19 community levels are continuing to decline in Illinois, with no counties listed at high level,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “We are seeing a gradual increase in the rate of the XBB.1.5 ‘Kraken’ variant in the Midwest and Illinois compared to last week. At this moment, it is not leading to an increase in hospitalizations. Concerns remain about this variant, but new data released by the CDC shows that the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster is protective against it – reducing the risk of symptoms by nearly half. We ask Illinoisians to remain vigilant and use readily available tools like vaccines and antiviral treatments to avoid hospitalizations and protect the most vulnerable.”

Bivalent COVID-19 boosters have been authorized for use in all individuals aged six months and older.

The two new bivalent booster vaccines include an mRNA component of the original strain to provide an immune response that is broadly protective against COVID-19 and an added mRNA component in common between the omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant.

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.

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.

The federal government is also distributing free COVID-19 tests via their website.

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.