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Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Record Hospitalizations, Ransomware Attack, 'Flurona' - NBC Chicago

Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Record Hospitalizations, Ransomware Attack, 'Flurona' - NBC Chicago

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Illinois hospitals are seeing the most COVID-19 patients compared to any other point during the pandemic, according to the state's top doctor.

Plus, the Secretary of State's Office has announced that its facilities will remain closed for an additional week due to elevated COVID case levels.

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

Illinois Driver Services Facilities to Remain Closed for Extra Week as COVID Surge Continues

Illinois driver services facilities and Secretary of State departments originally set to be closed for two weeks in January due to elevated COVID-19 case numbers will remain closed for an additional week, officials announced Thursday.

Though online services remain open on the Illinois Secretary of State website, in-person transactions won't be conducted through Jan. 24, Secretary of State Jesse White said in a news release.

"After careful consideration and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to extend the closures of offices and Driver Services facilities an additional week," White said. "The health and safety of employees and the public remains my top priority, and face-to-face transactions potentially increase the further spread of the virus."

The Drivers and Vehicles Services hotline phone number will also remain open during the closure period at 800-252-8980.

COVID by the Numbers: Illinois Reports 37K New Cases, Record Number of Hospitalizations

The state of Illinois reported more than 37,000 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, along with a record-high number of hospitalizations related to the virus, but there are signs that the omicron-driven surge may be beginning to slow.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 37,048 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state over the last 24 hours.

That number is the highest the state has seen in nearly a week, but notably the figure dropped Illinois’ daily case average to 31,495 new cases per day, a 3% drop over the record-high level that was set on Wednesday.

The state has now reported 2,560,001 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Illinois did report a new record-high number of hospitalized patients that are COVID-positive, with 7,380 beds currently occupied by those individuals.

The rate of new hospitalizations is continuing to slow, according to IDPH data. Over the last seven days, the state has averaged a total number of 7,213 hospitalizations, marking a change of 0.56% in the last day.

Of those patients, 1,177 are in intensive care unit beds, the most the state has seen since early Dec. 2020.

Ransomware Attack Leaves Exhausted Nurses at Suburban Hospital With Partial Paychecks

Even as medical professionals at a suburban hospital deal with the daily challenge of a surge in COVID cases, several hundred nurses say they’re being underpaid after a ransomware attack on the company that handles their paychecks.

The nurses, who work for Amita Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Joliet, say that thousands are being impacted by the ransomware attack, with many health care professionals only receiving partial paychecks at a time when they’re needed the most.

Some of those nurses met in a largely-virtual setting on Wednesday, discussing the challenges that they’ve experienced while their paychecks have been hit by the attack, all while battling a recent surge in COVID cases.

Read more here.

Chicago-Area Residents Detail Battles With ‘Flurona' as They Contracted Flu, COVID at Same Time

The term “flurona” has been floating around in recent weeks, with doctors saying that it is possible to be infected with both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, and two Chicago-area residents are sharing their experiences with the phenomenon.

Both residents say that the thought of having COVID and the flu at the same time never crossed their minds, but a few weeks ago both found themselves battling the viruses simultaneously.

Read their stories here.

What Medicine Should You Take to Help Relieve COVID Symptoms?

As more people contract the omicron variant of COVID-19 amid a nationwide surge, what kind of over-the-counter medicine can you use to treat mild symptoms?

For most omicron COVID cases, particularly breakthrough infections in those who are boosted and vaccinated, tend to remain mild and produce cold or flu-like symptoms.

Here's a breakdown of how to treat common symptoms.

Chicago Teachers Accept COVID Deal, Keeping Kids in School

Students in the nation's third-largest school district returned to classrooms Wednesday after Chicago Public Schools canceled five days of classes amid a standoff with the teachers' union over COVID-19 safety protocols.

Their return happened the same day the full membership of the Chicago Teachers Union narrowly gave their stamp of approval to the hard-fought safety plan that includes expanded testing and metrics to shut down individual schools during outbreaks. It passed with roughly 56% of the vote.

Leaders of the union gave their tentative approval two days earlier allowing students to return.They urged members to accept it, acknowledging that teachers didn't get initial demandsincluding a commitment to flip to remote learning districtwide during a surge of COVID-19 infections.

Read more here.

How to Properly Wear a Face Mask: Here's What Health Experts Recommend

As new studies appear and updated guidance is issued, health experts broke down the best way to wear a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Although new evidence shows which could be the most protective masks, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady has stressed that "everybody wearing a mask is the most important thing."

"The biggest jump in protection is from no mask to any mask," she said.

Here's a breakdown of masks, as well as when and how to wear them.

Illinois Changes Quarantine Rules and Isolation Guidelines for Schools to Align With CDC

Illinois schools now have new guidance on COVID-19 isolation and quarantine times as the state's board of education alters its guidelines to align with changes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previously, Illinois' health department said it would align with the new CDC guidelines, but that such protocols would not apply to schools. Then last week, officials said they were considering a change.

Here's a breakdown of the changes.

As CDC Weighs New Mask Guidance, Experts Give Advice on Which Covering is Best for You

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considering a recommendation that Americans wear more protective masks amid a surge in COVID cases caused by the omicron variant, medical professionals are offering their advice on which facial coverings are best.

Most medical professionals maintain that any mask is better than no mask out there, but different facial coverings come with different levels of protection.

Here's a breakdown.

Arwady Expresses Hope That Omicron Peak is Nearing Amid Mitigations, Declining COVID Metrics

As Chicago starts to see some declines in key coronavirus metrics, the city’s top doctor isn’t ready to say that the omicron peak has passed, but said that the city’s response to the surge is giving her hope that things could be heading in a better direction.

During a press availability on Tuesday, Arwady said that while she isn’t comfortable saying that the surge in COVID cases is flattening or moving past a peak, she is comfortable in saying that there has been good news in recent days.

“I know that the data is maybe giving you a sense of some potential relief. I am feeling that, but I can’t say for sure that we are flattening or past a peak,” she said. “But what I can say is there is real good news in terms of some of (our) response.”

Read more here.

What is Deltacron and Should You Be Worried? Chicago's Top Doctor Explains

With reports surfacing of a so-called "deltacron" COVID mutation that combines both the delta and omicron variants come questions over whether it is real and what it could mean.

Chicago's top doctor was asked that question Tuesday during a COVID-related press conference, where she said variants are likely to continue developing during the pandemic, but "deltacron" is "not a formal word."

"It's a word that people are using. I think it's reflecting a fear that we're not done with variants, and I see no reason to think we are done with variants, just to be really clear about that," Arwady said. "The way people are using that is this concern [that] already omicron has almost all the characteristics of delta and it has most of the same genetic changes that delta had. But it's this idea of sort of pulling together some of what was worse with delta with some of what is worse with omicron. And, you know, there have been some individual cases where we've seen some additional genetic patterns."

Read more here.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Announces She Has Tested Positive for COVID-19

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, announced Tuesday that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms. NBC 5's Regina Waldroup has the story.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, announced Tuesday that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms.

"Earlier today, I tested positive for COVID-19," the mayor tweeted around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. "I am experiencing cold-like symptoms but otherwise feel fine which I credit to being vaccinated and boosted."

The mayor said she plans to continue working from home as she follows isolation guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is an urgent reminder for folks to get vaccinated and boosted as it's the only way to beat this pandemic," she said in a statement.

Read more here.

How Should You Wear a Face Mask to Prevent COVID Infection? Here's What Experts Say as Omicron Surges

As omicron COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain high across the U.S., health officials broke down how to best wear a face covering in order to prevent contracting the virus.

While face masks have become part of the country's landscape in the past two years, health officials say because the omicron variant is more contagious, a reusable cloth mask maybe not be the best option.

Here's what Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, had to say.

This Early Symptom is One You Should Watch for With Omicron Infections Rising

If you've been exposed to someone with COVID and are watching for symptoms, what are some of the first signs you might be infected?

It's a question many are asking as omicron cases surge across the country and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their quarantine and isolation guidelines, which now differ depending on whether or not you have a symptomatic infection.

Here's what we know so far.

Do You Need to Wait to Get Your Booster Shot If You Had COVID?

A rise in COVID cases is being met with a push to get people boosted against the virus, but what happens if you are infected before getting your extra dose?

Do you need to wait? If so, how long?

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady addressed booster shot questions during a Facebook Live event Tuesday.

Read more here.

Chicago's Top Doctor Addresses Questions About Hospitalization Statistics

With the state of Illinois setting new records for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, there has been some pushback on just how those hospitalizations are defined.

As of Tuesday, there were 7,353 patients in Illinois hospitals that have tested positive for COVID. Of those, 1,152 are currently in intensive care units, according to the state Department of Public Health.

While the state of Illinois does not differentiate between people who are hospitalized specifically because of COVID from those who test positive for COVID while receiving care for another illness, Dr. Allison Arwady says that the distinction doesn’t change the fact that COVID causes the same issues for health care professionals whether or not it was the cause of someone’s admission to a hospital.

Read more here.

Which Vaccine is Best Against Omicron? What We Know as Pfizer, Moderna Prepare New Shots

With both Pfizer and Moderna preparing for additional shots specifically targeting the omicron variant, what do we know so far about vaccines and their effectiveness against the strain?

With booster shot eligibility and guidance changing, the omicron variant has already caused a shift as experts rush to slow the surge in cases nationwide.

Here's what we know so far.

What is 'Flurona' and What Are the Symptoms? Chicago-Area Doctor on What to Know

Yes, it's possible for someone to be diagnosed with both flu and COVID at the same time, doctors say. Cases of people who have tested positive for both viruses, in what has now been coined "flurona," have been reported recently.

But despite some false portrayals online, the viruses have not merged to create a new illness. They remain separate infections.

"Flurona is a thoughtfully-named experience that can in fact occur. The flu virus and the COVID-19 virus are different enough that they're different variants and they both can occur at the same time," said Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine for Cook County Health.

Here's what we know so far about "flurona" and what to expect.

Omicron Symptoms: Here's What to Watch For After COVID Exposure

Not sure if your symptoms are COVID-related?

Whether you were exposed or just aren't feeling well, experts say to assume that those who believe they might have a cold could have coronavirus. But what symptoms should you specifically be watching for?

It's a question many are asking as omicron cases surge into the new year following holiday gatherings and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their quarantine and isolation guidelines.

Here's what we know so far.

Omicron and Quarantine or Isolation: Do You Need to Test Out? The Latest Guidance

If you test positive for COVID and isolate, do you need to take another test before you can see people again? What if you were exposed but have no symptoms?

It's a question many are asking as omicron cases surge into the new year following holiday gatherings and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update their quarantine and isolation guidelines.

Here's what we know so far.

How Long After COVID Exposure Could You Test Positive?

How long could it take for someone to test positive for COVID following an exposure to someone who had the virus?

It's a question many are asking following holiday gatherings amid surging omicron variant cases.

Testing demand continues to soar as the new year gets underway and some experts say the omicron variant has "sped up" timing for what many have come to know with COVID.

Here's what we know so far.

When Could Omicron Symptoms Start After COVID Exposure?

The omicron variant has changed some of what many came to know about the coronavirus and how it spreads, but now with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some are wondering when they are most contagious and for how long after contracting the virus?

As cases of the coronavirus surge with the new omicron variant continuing to spread following the holidays, your chances of being exposed to someone with the virus have likely increased. But when might symptoms first appear following a potential exposure?

Some experts say the omicron variant has "sped up" timing for what many have come to know with COVID, including the incubation period, or the time between exposure and the start of symptoms.

"As we've seen these new variants develop - delta, now omicron - what we're seeing is everything gets sped up from a COVID perspective," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday. "It is taking less time from when someone is exposed to COVID to potentially develop infection. It is taking less time to develop symptoms, it is taking less time that someone may be infectious and it is, for many people, taking less time to recover. A lot of that is because many more people are vaccinated."

Here's what we know so far.

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