We have three respiratory illnesses that are prominent right now. We’ve got COVID, we’ve got the seasonal flu and we have RSV. The sooner you can start narrowing down what you don’t have you can start figuring out what you do have. And in most cases for respiratory illnesses when you know what it is you can get early intervention treatment post exposure.)

Marianne Manko |Public Affairs Coordinator | McLean County Health Department: 

CHICAGO — As the holiday season gets underway, COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise across the state, and the Illinois Department of Public Health is urging Illinoisans to protect themselves from illness.

According to a press release Friday, IDPH is reporting 23,334 new confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days. There have been 82 COVID-19 deaths in the same time frame.

As case numbers increase, IDPH reported that the CDC has elevated 86 counties in Illinois to either medium or high levels of COVID-19, up from 74 counties last week and 63 the week before. This week, 43 counties are at a high community level and 43 are at a medium level.

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

“Illinois continues to see a dramatic rise in communities at elevated risk levels for COVID-19, including 43 counties that are now at a high risk,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “As we prepare for holiday gatherings with our loved ones, I want to remind Illinoisians that these elevated COVID-19 community levels, along with rising flu levels, are leading to a surge of respiratory infections, increased hospitalizations and limited hospital beds. I strongly recommend all Illinoisians take preventative steps to protect themselves and their family and friends, especially those most vulnerable including young children and individuals over 65.”

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 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 Knox, Fulton, Peoria, Tazewell, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Ford, 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

“These preventative measures start with being up-to-date with the COVID-19 bivalent booster that is now authorized for children as young as six months old. Getting your flu shot is very important too,” said Dr. Vohra. “Other important protective steps include COVID-19 testing, especially if visiting someone at risk for severe disease; enhanced ventilation at gatherings; and good hand hygiene. And if you are sick, stay home and consult with your provider about whether you need one of the effective treatments that are available. A high-quality mask or respirator is also recommended and will protect you from COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory viruses. Our hope is for Illinoisians across our state to have a happy and healthy holiday season.”

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.