Health

In the news... Governor J.B. Pritzker Thursday announced plans to further relax pandemic restrictions in Illinois on May 14, moving the state from Phase 4 into a "Bridge Phase" en route to its long-awaited re-opening. 

Effective Tuesday, an order from President Joe Biden has suspended travel from COVID-19-ravaged India to the United States.

Also Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hopes to have a fully reopened city by July 4.

Call 833-621-1284 to get vaccinated if you don't have a computer or access to one. Or, if you need help in booking an appointment with your device. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.

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Global Caseload of COVID-19

COVID-19 continues its catastrophic run in India. Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) posted Thursday show new cases in India have continued to soar, and now tally 21,077,410. India remains second in the world behind the U.S., which has 32,167,970 cases. Brazil is still in third place, with 14,856,888. 

More on Plans to Gradually Re-open Illinois

Barring any resurgence in COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations, Illinois will advance to phase 5--the final portion of reopening plan Restore Illinois--via a so-called "Bridge Phase." (The "Bridge Phase" had been delayed because of annew cases and hospitalizations.) Phase 5 could come as soon as June 11. 

Pritzker's announcement later this week follows a relaxation of restrictions later last week in Cook County, which includes:

  • An increase in indoor restaurant capacity to 50 percent or 100 individuals, whichever is smaller.
  • Outdoor social events, such as weddings, increase to the lesser of 50% capacity or 100 people.
  • Festivals and outdoor spectator events (general admission) expand to 15 people per 1,000 square feet.

New Study Estimates Higher Death Toll in U.S.

The number of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States really exceeds 900,000 according to a new study from the University of Washington, more than 50% higher than official figures.

Drop in COVID-19 Vaccinations in the U.S.

Not all Americans want to get a vaccine shot or shots, and that is partly why vaccination numbers have been falling of late. Efforts continue, however, to reach as many people as possible.

Interviewed Sunday morning on the CBS news program "Face the Nation," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said not to lose perspective.

"About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. At this point. This has been a monumental achievement, rolling out this vaccine, getting that many Americans vaccinated. And it's going to continue. We'll continue to chip away at it. The rate of vaccination is going to slow in the coming weeks, but we'll continue to pick up more people as we get into the summer."

Regarding testing, Dr. Gottlieb said considerable testing is under way in the U.S. using at-home tests that are not necessarily reported unless the results are positive. That led him to conclude the positivity rate in the country is even lower than what is being recorded.

"... Hospitalizations are a pretty good indicator of where the direction is heading and they're coming down as well," according to Dr. Gottlieb. "So I think these gains are pretty sustainable at this point."

Fully vaccinated adults 65 and older are 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, according to an April 28 report from the CDC.

What About Children and Vaccinations?

To date, children have not been vaccinated for COVID-19. Dr. Gottlieb hopes the FDA will soon approve administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (he is on the board of Pfizer) to 12- to 15-year-olds. 

Once authorization is granted, "...I think you'll pick up probably five million kids (who) will get immediately vaccinated," he said. "There's about 17 million children between the age of 12 and 15...I think probably another 5 million, 5 to 7 million would get vaccinated over the course of the summer before the school year."

Asked if children will be vaccinated in the same manner as adults, Dr. Gottlieb said efforts are under way to break vaccine down into units that can be distributed to doctors' offices. Initially, he predicted, vaccination sites and pharmacies will start to administer shots to children. 

"But really, the key to getting kids vaccinated is doing it through pediatricians."

More on Presidential Proclamation Forbidding Flights from India

Asked Sunday if the ban on travel from India is a good idea, Dr. Gottlieb replied he was unsure what this new restriction was designed to do and that we need to be clear about its purpose, noting there still are (pandemic-related) bans on travel from China and the United Kingdom.

"... I'm not sure what we're hoping to accomplish if the goal is to try to prevent introduction of virus into the United States. There's plenty of virus here already. If the goal is to try to prevent introduction of that new variant, 6.1.7, that's circulating in India, I assure you it's here already."

Masks and the Outdoors

Americans who are fully vaccinated now can be outside without a mask unless they are in a large crowd, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last Tuesday in updated guidance.

CDC Updated Recommendations for the Fully Vaccinated

What HAS Changed if You've been Fully Vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without a mask.
  • You can gather inside with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks. Unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you've been around someone with COVID-19, you don't need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

What Has NOT Changed if You've Been Fully Vaccinated:

  • Still protect yourself and others in many situations. Such as wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. 

Interested in V-Safe?

After being vaccinated, you can register for V-safe, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-in. Through V-safe, you can quickly tell the CDC about any side effects. Depending on your answers to the web surveys, someone from the CDC may call. Also, V-safe will remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose if you need one. 

Variant Cases in U.S. Keep Rising

It's the nature of viruses to change, to mutate. Dr. Gottlieb said the more coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, continues to circulate, the more it's going to keep mutating. 

Cases of the very contagious B.1.1.7, the predominant variant in the United States, keep multiplying. B.1.1.7 was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020. The number of variant cases in Illinois overall continues to increase substantially. Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) statistics Thursday showed 3,168 cases of B.1.1.7, with a total of 4,749 variant-related cases overall:  B.1.351--56; P.1--1,097; and B.1.427/429--428. 

"You're getting what we call convergent evolution with the same mutations that are arising in other parts of the world are also arising here spontaneously," Dr. Gottlieb said Sunday. "There's probably a finite number of ways that this virus is going to try to mutate to evade our immunity."

So these same mutations "just haven't gotten a foothold here, in part because we've been vaccinating our public," he added.

Test Positivity Slowly Dropping

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity as a percent of total test from April 29-May 5 fell again, from 3.3% to 3.0%, IDPH reported Thursday. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for the same period dropped from 4.0% to 3.8%.

Number Vaccinated in U.S.

Nearly 148 million adults--or 44.5% of the total population, now have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC statistics posted Tuesday. More than 106 million adults, or 32% of the total population, are fully vaccinated (have received all of their shots).

Confused by big words associated with how vaccines work? You're in good company. This video may help.

Definition of Vaccine "Passport"

You may have heard the term vaccine passport recently. It is a record or certification that proves someone has been vaccinated. Typically through a smartphone app (application) or a QR (quick response) code that has been printed.

Trying to Make Sure Homebound People Get Vaccinated

Cook County has a vaccination program for suburbanites who cannot leave home to get vaccine. Call  833-308-1988. Or, go to: bit.ly/inhomevaccine

Signing up for Vaccine

312-746-4835 is the City of Chicago Vaccine Hotline.

Suburbanites can go to vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or phone (833) 308-1988, Cook County's vaccine enrollment help line.

Vaccination Sites

A portal on the state's coronavirus website lists vaccination locations. And, you can go to the following sites to try to make an appointment:

Conflicted about getting a shot of vaccine? IDPH has answers to frequently asked vaccine questions.

Updated CDC Guidance on How to Better Wear Your Mask(s)

  • Choose a mask with a nose wire along the top. It prevents air from leaking from the top of the mask.
  • Add layers of material, including wearing one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a three-ply mask

Do NOT combine two disposable masks. Do NOT use a KN95 mask with any other mask.

Don't Fall for COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has advice on how to avoid pandemic-related scams.

Delivery of Vaccine/Number of Vaccinations Given

According to IDPH statistics posted Thursday, a total of 9,646,432 vaccines were administered as of midnight. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines given daily is 70,063 doses. On Wednesday, 99,599 doses were given in Illinois.

Deaths at Long-Term Care Facilities

In Illinois, more than 10,000 residents of Long Term Care Facilities (LTCFs) have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic last year.

Vaccinations have made a huge difference in lowering the death toll at hard-hit nursing homes. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 10,402 residents of LTCFs have died from COVID-19, according to IDPH statistics posted Friday. The total number of cases at LTCFs as of Friday was 78,141.

Testing

The testing center at the Arlington racetrack, 2000 W. Euclid Avenue in Arlington Heights, is open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., while daily supplies last. IDPH has a list of testing sites

On Thursday, laboratories reported 96,296 specimens within the past 24 hours, for a total of 23,103,484, according to IDPH.

Mental Health/Medical Help

Call4Calm connects you to a mental health professional. It's free and anonymous. For English, text talk to 552020. For Spanish, text hablar to 552020.

You also can contact the Illinois Mental Health Collaborative. Call:  1-866-359-7953. 

To get help for substance abuse, call:  1-833-2findhelp.  Or, go to:  helplineil.org

For those with COVID-19 symptoms who don't require in-patient care, there is daily telehealth monitoring. Northern Illinois:  1-866-443-2584... Central Illinois and Rockford: 1-833-673-5669...Southern and west central Illinois (+ Metro East):  1-217-545-5100.

Cases by Location in Illinois

IDPH provides a breakdown by zip code and county of infections. In zip codes 60016 (6,517) and 60018 (3,633), Thursday's total number of positive cases was 10,150.

COVID-19 statistics as of Thursday, May 6, 2021

lllinois, IDPH:   1,348,176 cases (1,778 new confirmed and probable cases). 22,136 deaths (40 new confirmed deaths). (Total nucleic acid-based tests performed and reported electronically for testing of COVID-19 at IDPH, commercial or hospital laboratories.) Recovery rate:  98%. Recovered cases defined as persons with initial positive specimen collection data more than 42 days, who have not died.

As of 11:59 p.m., May 5, IDPH:  2,055 individuals with COVID-19 were hospitalized. Of those, 483 were in the ICU, and 243 of the ICU patients were on ventilators.

U.S. (since January 21, 2020), as of May 4:  CDC:  32,356,034 total cases (41,909 new cases since May 5).  Total deaths: 576,238 (730 new deaths since May 5).

Globally as of May 6:  WHO:  154,815,600 confirmed cases.  3,236,104 confirmed deaths. 

Visit the following sites for additional information about COVID-19 and how to deal with this public health emergency:

 -- World Health Organization (WHO)

 -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

 -- New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)

 -- Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)

 -- Cook County Department of Public Health

 -- Johns Hopkins University of Medicine

The death toll in Illinois due to vaping remains at five, according to IDPH.      

Help try to prevent suicides. Options include:

 -- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255 (24/7)

 -- What can you do? The National Institute of Mental Health has details.  

 -- Veterans Crisis Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

Find out about the opioid crisis.

Considering a career in health? Take a look at Oakton Community College.

Oakton also has Continuing Education for Health Professionals (CEHP).