Where and why COVID rates are increasing in Illinois, and how concerned you should you be about contracting the Delta Variant
For the first time this week, after being fully vaccinated and waiting four weeks to feel confident, I finally began walking around outside without a mask. It’s a strange feeling at first, as if you’ve forgotten something and baring my face to the world again was a bit disarming. But it feels good to be fully vaccinated and although I still wear a mask anywhere public that is inside, being able to walk around with the air hitting my face makes me feel like things are finally heading in the right direction.
However, the COVID numbers released this week are somewhat worrisome. Health officials released data this week indicate that COVID is on the rise again in the state, and even those who are fully vaccinated need to be careful. Attempts to explain this suggest several underlying factors that are working together.
Rates Climbing in Some Parts of Illinois
Residents in the Illinois have been happy to lose their masks at least outside, with many businesses allowing those who are fully vaccinated to enter without masks, on the honor system. However local data as well as data from the feds show that the virus is increasing again in parts of the state.
Residents of Illinois were hopeful upon reports that new COVID cases had declined over the past month down from the highs of fall and spring. New data released yesterday however, shows that the rate of new daily cases have started to increase in the west-central and southern regions of Illinois, as well as the Metro East region near St. Louis.
While case rates are still considered relatively low, the increasing trend and concern that more of Illinois, in particular areas that have low vaccination rates, could likewise see cases increase.
Rates in Downstate Illinois
The main COVID case increases are being seen in three areas of the state that border Missouri, from Alexander County at Illinois’s most southern tip to Hancock County, which is about four hours southwest of Chicago.
The west-central region, which includes Springfield, the state capital and the Metro East area began seeing increased cases in mid-June, while increases in positive COVID tests started being seen about a week later in the southern region.
All of these areas are currently reporting an average of eight cases per 100,000 residents, which is three to four times higher than what is being reported in the Chicago region.
“These are small increases right now downstate,” Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health, said. “They haven’t hit the equivalent of what would be trigger levels (for stricter recommendations or rules), but they’re going the wrong way.”
As in other areas of the state and country, vaccination rates have bottomed out in Chicago. This is due to high vaccination rates in some areas and low rates in others, such that demand for the vaccine has drastically dropped.
Starting during the week of June 11th when the city and state first began to reopen to yesterday vaccination rates have only increased by a small number of percentage points, generally 1 to 2 percent in the four mid-South Side zip codes. These areas have significantly lower rates of vaccinations than the Illinois average.
Additionally, these small increases possibly resulted from outreach efforts, whereby healthcare workers are canvassing by going door to door in 13 neighborhoods with the lowest vaccinations rates. They give information, answer questions and encourage people to get the vaccine. Some of the outcomes to date are as follows:
- June: 34.5 percent of people in 60653, covering North Kenwood and Oakland, were fully vaccinated. July: 36.4 percent are.
- June: 51.2 percent of people in 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, were fully vaccinated. July: 53.4percent are.
- June: 35.3 percent of people in 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, were fully vaccinated. July: 37.2 percent are.
- July: 29.5 percent in 60649, South Shore, were fully vaccinated. July: 31.5 percent are.
While Arwady believes a 1 – 2 percent increase to be significant, considering how many people have not gotten their vaccines, the limited outcomes of such a high effort high manpower intervention doesn’t seem worth the resources being expended to some.
Over 500 People Who Were Fully Vaccinated Hospitalized With COVID
In Illinois 518 residents have been hospitalized and 114 people have died because of COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, according to data from the state health department. They reported that 83 percent of these individuals were older and many had underlying health conditions. Of these patients, slightly over 70% were white and 17% were Black.
However, health experts have stated that the chances of getting this type breakthrough infection, defined by contracting COVID after being fully vaccinated, remain very low.
“Right now, they are still very rare,” Dr. Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo, a COVID-19 scientist and researcher at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said of breakthrough infections. Even with the new delta variants, the protection rate offered by vaccines continues to be high, he said.
Pfizer Preparing to Distribute Vaccine for Third Shot to Fight Delta Variant
Research has determined that two doses of most vaccines being currently used to help prevent serious consequences from infection with COVID are essential for developing high levels of antibodies to fight the all versions of the corona. The delta variant is up to 60 percent more transmissible and may cause more severe illness even for those who are fully vaccinated.
The concern is that this variant is emerging as antibodies for many people may be waning.
Now, Pfizer is asking for authorization to provide a third dose of its vaccine given 12 months after the second dose, in order to better fight the delta variant that is spreading rapidly around the world. The company plans to deliver the results from research trials to the Food and Drug Administration within the next few weeks. However, this won’t help prevent illness or hospitalization due to the delta variant in those who aren’t fully vaccinated.
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