Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and so is a surge of new COVID-19 cases.
The state’s public health department today reports more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases since Tuesday.
The increase in cases in Illinois this fall has now surpassed last summer’s delta variant surge. Health officials are urging residents to take extra precautions as they make plans to gather with family members who may or may not be vaccinated.
According to data from the CDC, of Illinoisans 12 and older eligible to receive vaccines, 71% of the population are fully vaccinated, and 78% have received their first dose of a vaccine. And with booster shots available to all in the U.S., and about 1.7 million have received their booster shot. Still, that is over half the population of people vaccinated in time for the holidays.
Dr. Susan Bleasdale, medical director of infection prevention and control at UI Health, described a few factors driving the surge in COVID-19 cases this fall.
“I think we are starting to see an increase in [COVID-19 cases] again due to the colder weather, more gathering and people getting back to more normal activities,” she said. “But we are already at the same level that we were at the peak of the recent delta surge And, now that we are heading into the holiday season and winter months, we are likely [to see a surge] after gathering for Thanksgiving. And we are also going to see a further increase similar to what we saw last year.”
Dr. Robert Murphy, professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and executive director of the Institute for Global Health, said if people are unvaccinated, they should not gather together for the holidays and also urged those who are able to get their shot, especially children 5 and older eligible for the vaccine.
“When you look at the number of cases, it’s quite clear that when you are not vaccinated, you are five times more likely to get infected,” he said. “And [COVID-19 mortality] is even greater. You are 13 times more likely to die if you are unvaccinated. So, the key is to get vaccinated.
He also stressed that if people do make plans for Thanksgiving, they should get a rapid COVID-19 test.
“If there is any uncertainty at all, you can get an over-the-counter test, and test everybody coming to your house,” he continued. “There are many items in the toolbox to help keep your risks as low as possible.”
Bleasdale said that it is important to consider the risks before sitting down to the dinner table.
“The public should not gather at anyone’s [home]. I would suggest those who are not vaccinated to not gather because that puts people at really high risk for severe disease. For those who are vaccinated, still use caution, especially with family members who might be vulnerable, even with vaccination. So just use caution. Gathering is so important for us right now, especially after the last two years — it has been very difficult. So, it’s important to gather with family and friends, but we just need to do it wisely,” she said.