CHICAGO — As people settle back into regular life after the holidays, the Illinois Department of Public Health is reminding Illinoisans that COVID-19 is still prevalent and urging them to protect themselves from illness.

According to a press release Friday, IDPH is reporting 16,281 new confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days. There have been 20 COVID-19 deaths in the same time frame.

As case numbers increase, IDPH reported that the CDC has elevated 73 counties in Illinois to either medium or high levels of COVID-19, up from 65 counties last week. This week, 28 counties are at a high community level and 45 are at a medium level.

Central Illinois counties at a high community level include Fulton, Peoria, Tazewell, Logan, Marshall, Mason, and Warren counties.

“As we enter the new year, IDPH continues to closely monitor levels of COVID-19, the flu, and other respiratory illness in communities throughout Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “After the holidays, we are once again experiencing a rise in counties at elevated COVID-19 community levels, with 28 currently at High Level. As we monitor emerging variants, including a new more transmissible strain spreading in the northeastern U.S., I continue to recommend our residents take steps to prevent the spread of infection, protect those most vulnerable to serious illness, and preserve our hospital capacity. It is not too late to get your COVID-19 bivalent booster or yearly flu shot. And if you are sick, please stay home if you are able and reach out to your provider about treatments for COVID-19 and the flu.”

Dr. Vohra and IDPH also reminded residents that bivalent COVID-19 boosters have been authorized for use in all individuals aged six months and older.

In counties at the medium community level, such as Knox, Woodford, McLean, and De Witt, 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 Fulton, Peoria, Tazewell, Logan, Marshall, Mason, 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

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.

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.