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As city leaders urged Chicagoans to prepare for the coronavirus variant, the first Omicron case was detected in the state. The case was identified in a Chicago resident who came in contact with a person who had traveled to the city; that person tested positive for the variant in another state.
The Chicagoan was fully vaccinated, including a booster dose, and they are not hospitalized, reports both the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health in a joint announcement.
Covid-19’s newest variant, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 (Omicron), appears to be highly contagious, but health officials do not know how readily it passes between people or the severity of the illness it causes. In addition, while they do not know how well the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or J&J Janssen vaccines and medications will work to fight the Omicron variant, the infections of those who are vaccinated seem to have mild cases.
As a result, experts believe that being vaccinated against the virus is the safest course of action to combat the Omicron variant at this time. So not only are they urging everyone five and older who are unvaccinated to get the shots, but they strongly suggest fully dosed folks 18 and older get a booster dose.
When asked earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot assured Chicagoans that she would not take extreme measures like those imposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. She said there are no plans to mandate vaccines for private-sector workers.
Instead, Lightfoot is “encouraging employers of all types to make sure they’re doing everything they can to maximize safety and a vaccine.” She is pleased that bars, sports stadiums, and restaurants are requiring proof of they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or a negative test for entry.
Masks continue to be required at all indoor public settings as they have since last August.
The Omicron variant has been detected in 19 other states as of Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told everyone at a Q&A session, they should be concerned with how the city is going to respond. She said the vaccine remains the most important thing a person could do for themselves and others. Vaccines and booster doses are free to everyone aged five and up regardless of insurance or immigration status.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statement reminds people that scientists need more time to learn about the Omicron variant and how it behaves. Until more is known stay vigilant. In addition to vaccines, remember to “wear your mask indoors, wash your hands, and get tested for COVID-19 if you feel sick or have been exposed to someone who tested positive.”
The governor urges the state’s residents to create a plan for the best way to protect themselves and their loved ones, particularly during the holiday season.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
ABC 7 News: Chicago prepares for arrival of Omicron variant, Lightfoot encourages COVID vaccination; by Evelyn Holmes
Crain’s Chicago: Lightfoot: No plans for NYC-style vax mandate for private sector; A.D. Quig
Chicago Tribune: Omicron variant discovered in Chicago, marking first case of the COVID-19 variant detected in Illinois; by Alice Yin
CDC: Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know
Featured and Top Image by Natalia Khurtsidze Courtesy of IAEA Imagebank’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Gerd Altman’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License