Delta variant surge renews COVID vaccine push in Illinois, Chicago

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — With the Delta variant causing a surge in cases among the unvaccinated, health leaders at the local and state level continue their push to get Illinoisans vaccinated.

As covid cases rise, cities and counties across the country are bringing back mask mandates. For example, in Los Angeles, where the county is seeing more than a thousand cases a day, masks are once again required indoors regardless of one’s vaccination status.

Chicago’s health commissioner says the city is not there yet, even though cases are creeping up. 

“I’m not worried about overwhelming our health system in the way that it was, I’m not worried about having to do the major shutdowns and lockdowns because we have an effective vaccine, but I’m concerned about the individuals that choose not to take advantage of that,” said Dr. Allison Arwady.

Fifty-one percent of Chicagoans are fully vaccinated, compared to more than 55% of people in the entire state. However, with the highly contagious Delta variant now responsible for one in four coronavirus cases, health officials say masks and vaccines still offer the best protection. 

“We know that the more people who are fully vaccinated, the less chance this virus or any of the variants that follow will infect Illinois residents,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Since the Fourth of July, Illinois has seen almost 5,000 new cases, mostly attributed to large summer gatherings. The state is also seeing a rise in hospitalizations. 

“Ninety-seven percent of the people, going all the way back to January who are hospitalized and 97% of the people who have died are unvaccinated,” Dr. Arwady said.

“We saw that for the Metro East area, 100% of the deaths that were attributed to Covid were in people who were not fully vaccinated for the entire month of June,” Dr. Ezike added.

Historically, spikes in covid cases have led to an increase in deaths, so health officials are ramping up efforts to dispel myths about the vaccines. 

“It’s important for people to understand, my decision to get vaccinated is not just about me. It’s about the whole community, protecting all of us from the variants and whatever is coming,” Dr. Arwady said.

“We all benefit,” Dr. Ezike added, “from every individual who gets vaccinated.”

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