As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, some experts say the country may be entering a fifth wave of the virus as summer approaches.
In the past week alone, the number of COVID cases in the state of Illinois has increased by more than 40%, while hospitalizations have also slowly increased, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“If you look at our rates, (and) if you look at the CDC maps, for example, we’re right on the East Coast,” says Dr. Sharon Welbel of Cook County Health.
The East Coast has seen a rapid increase in COVID cases in recent weeks, fueled largely by a new sub-variant of ommicron. Numerous counties are now considered a “high community level” of the virus, with officials warning residents may need to take serious precautions to avoid getting sick.
“The virus mutates very easily, and it mutates often,” said Dr. Robert Citronberg of attorney Aurora Health. “And that’s why we have so many variants.”
While no county in Illinois is at the “high community level” of COVID, there are 14 that are currently at an “intermediate community level” of the virus. That includes Cook County, as well as seven other counties in the Chicago area, according to CDC data.
Both Chicago and Cook County have moved from “low” to “medium” risk for COVID-19, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Friday, as cases continue to rise across the area. NBC 5’s Natalie Martinez has the story.
According to IDPH data, Illinois now has an average of 5,154 new cases of the virus per day, a 41.6% increase from a week ago and an increase of more than 180% in the past month.
Hospital admissions are up just over 5% in the past week, with 777 patients from Illinois testing positive for COVID.
Those hospitalization trends, along with the fact that more than 73% of the state’s eligible residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID, give officials some hope that a huge wave and potential lockdowns can be avoided.
Nevertheless, there are still concerns that the numbers will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“The more people who get vaccinated, the less likely they are to be discontinued,” Citronberg said. “That said, I don’t expect any significant closures in our area.”
While Chicago health officials are encouraging residents to wear masks indoors, they are not issuing new mandates to that effect. If the county enters a “high community level” of the virus, such mandates may return to align with CDC guidelines.
Whether such a move would take place, however, is unknown.