Illinois health director recommends residents wear masks as state sees ‘significant rise’ of COVID-19

File Photo | Photo: Arturo Rey (via Unsplash)

Illinois health officials say the state is experiencing a “significant increase” in high-risk counties for COVID-19 and are recommending residents wear masks.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), after the Thanksgiving holiday, cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses continue to rise across Illinois.

IDPH said the expected “post-holiday surge” is a reminder to the public to take steps to protect themselves during the remainder of the holiday season.

“This is especially important when it comes to family members who are vulnerable to severe consequences,” IDPH said in a statement.

74 counties in Illinois, including Lake and McHenry counties, are now rated high for COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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The majority of Illinois counties are rated medium or high for community transmission of COVID.

The CDC recommends that people in high community-level transmission areas wear masks, and those in moderate transmission areas should wear masks if they are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease.

Illinois reported 21,404 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in the state since Dec. 2, along with 56 deaths.

“Illinois is experiencing a significant increase in high-risk levels for COVID-19 in communities, with 29 counties at high risk,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra.

According to the latest data from earlier this week, 1,582 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19.

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188 of them were in intensive care unit and 69 patients were on ventilator.

“These elevated community levels of COVID-19, along with rising fever levels, lead to increased respiratory infections and increased hospitalizations. I recommend all Illinoisans — especially the most vulnerable, including young children and people over age 65 — take all preventative measures to protect themselves, their families and friends,” Vora said.

Vohra said residents are recommended to wear a high-quality mask or respirator to protect against COVID-19, flu and other respiratory viruses.

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Vohra stressed that those who test positive for COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider to discuss treatment with antiviral drugs such as Paxlovid, Lagverio and Remdesivir.

IDPH said it will offer 1 million free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to residents of economically disadvantaged zip codes.

Households can find out if they are in an eligible zip code and request one package of five tests on a first-come, first-served basis at the Project ACT website. Tests are delivered to the home address.

Free or low-cost Covid-19 testing locations are available throughout the state and can be found on the IDPH website’s Testing Locations page.

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