Days after the first case of the omicron variant was reported in suburban Cook County, authorities are reporting additional cases.
“Omicron is spreading in our communities – in the city, in the suburbs,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and chief medical officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, in an interview with WTTW News.
Fewer than 10 omicron cases have been detected in suburban Cook County, according to Rubin, who declined to provide demographic or geographic information about the cases. Other cases of omicron are under investigation.
“Every day we get more and more suspected cases,” Rubin said of the omicron variant.
The first case of the omicron variant from suburban Cook County was reported on Tuesday.
Statewide, 16 cases of omicron variants have been reported, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data. The first case in the state was detected earlier this month in Chicago.
Not all COVID-19 samples are analyzed for variants like omicron – only a small percentage of tests are. Genotyped testing is just “the tip of the iceberg,” Rubin said. “We know there are more (omicron) cases that will never come to our attention.”
Even with the arrival of omicron, the delta variant remains the predominant strain circulating in suburban Cook County, officials say.
But it’s only a matter of time before omicron becomes the predominant strain, according to Rubin, who said the doubling time for the omicron variant is two to three days.
“It’s extremely fast. If you see two cases today, you will see four cases in two days, then eight then 16,” she said, adding that omicron’s doubling time is faster than delta’s.
On Friday, state health officials reported 10,765 new confirmed and probable cases and 52 deaths in the past 24 hours. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is now 6.2%, according to IDPH data.
In Cook County, the seven-day average case rate per 100,000 people is 341.98, according to state data.
To slow the spread of COVID-19, officials urged all eligible residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already and for fully vaccinated people to get vaccinated once they are eligible. Adults 18 years and older who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive a booster shot two months after their shot. People 16 and older who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are eligible to receive a booster six months after their second dose.
Although early research indicates vaccines may not be as effective against the variant, officials say they can help prevent serious disease.
“The way to avoid getting a serious illness or disease is by far to get vaccinated and get a booster if you’re eligible for a booster,” Rubin said.
Unvaccinated people should not congregate during the holidays, according to Rubin. “If you’re vaccinated, I think it’s no big deal – safe to celebrate with your family and friends. Wear a mask indoors except when eating and drinking,” she said. “Don’t go to a busy event and test yourself three days before the event and the morning or day before the event.”
Holiday office parties should also remain virtual, according to Rubin.
“I really hope that by next year we can have a much more free and open holiday season,” she said. “People can safely celebrate this year if we get vaccinated, wash our hands, keep our distance and test.”
Officials have also urged businesses to require customers to be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry, especially for large gatherings such as conferences, weddings , festivals, concerts and sporting events.
An indoor mask mandate remains in effect for all indoor spaces and activities.
Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz | (773) 509-5452 | [email protected]