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Illinois identifies 17 more cases of UK coronavirus variant

Illinois identifies 17 more cases of UK coronavirus variant

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Seventeen additional cases of the coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom have been identified in Illinois, bringing the statewide total to 42, state public health officials reported Thursday.

The strain “spreads more easily and quickly” than others, and recent studies have found the variant is likely connected to an increased risk of hospitalization and death. Officials previously identified a single case of the COVID-19 variant originating from South Africa in Rock Island.

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The new strains pose the threat of reinfections and the possibility of another resurgence of the disease, though findings so far suggest existing COVID-19 vaccines may offer some protection against the variants.

The state administered 73,091 vaccinations Wednesday, reaching a total of 1,977,033. Over the past seven days, the state averaged 61,132 vaccinations daily.

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Public health officials noted the winter weather continues to delay federal shipment of the vaccine.

“We are in contact with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies to understand the logistical challenges and if there is anything Illinois can do to expedite getting vaccine,” officials stated.

Separately, nine Illinois community health centers will join a federal vaccine program, U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin announced Thursday.

Six Chicago centers and three others in Elgin, Aurora and East St. Louis will receive vaccines directly from the federal government through the Federally Qualified Health Center Program. FQHCs are designated medical providers that serve disadvantaged populations

The first phase of the program began this week, shipping vaccine supply to 25 health centers across the nation. The nine Illinois centers will be eligible to receive vaccines in the next round.

The number of Illinois residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required two shots — reached 472,755, or 3.71% of the total population.

Public health officials on Thursday reported 1,966 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 72 additional fatalities. The total number of known infections in Illinois is 1,168,6832, and the statewide death toll is 20,129.

The state has averaged 1,836 daily cases over the past week, the lowest seven-day average since the week ending Sept. 18. The average peaked at 12,384 cases per day during the week ending Nov. 16.

The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests was 2.7% as of Wednesday. Thursday’s new cases resulted from 67,542 tests.

As of Wednesday night, 20,129 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 386 patients in intensive care units and 184 patients on ventilators.

jwhidden@chicagotribune.com

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