Chicago Public Schools’ mask-optional policy will remain in place, at least for now, following a recent ruling.
Plus, new evidence emerges on how diabetes and COVID-19 could be linked.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
How Worried Should You Be About BA.2 or ‘Stealth Omicron’? Here’s What Chicago Experts Say
With COVID outbreaks being reported in a number of countries around the world, and upticks seen across Europe, many coinciding with a rise in BA.2 or “stealth omicron” cases, what does that signal for the U.S. as restrictions ease?
Chicago’s top doctor said Thursday she is particularly concerned about the state of Europe’s COVID cases.
“I’m going to be honest, I am concerned about what’s happening in Europe because I think there is not a full understanding of it,” Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live Thursday.
Read more here.
CPS Mask-Optional Policy Upheld by State Labor Board Amid Objections by Chicago Teachers Union
A state labor board has rejected the Chicago Teachers Union’s request to temporarily block Chicago Public Schools’ mask optional policy while the union’s legal challenge plays out.
The Illinois Education Labor Relations Board’s 3-2 vote Wednesday against a preliminary injunction comes as a disappointment to the union in its effort to immediately reinstate universal face coverings at CPS. But the union’s case against the district continues and could be expedited for a hearing as soon as next month.
Read more here.
Scientists Explore Potential Links Between COVID-19 And Diabetes
It’s clear that in those who already have diabetes, COVID-19 can worsen the condition and lead to severe complications. But there are other possible links.
Emerging evidence shows that the coronavirus — like some other viruses — can attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas — a process that might trigger at least temporary diabetes in susceptible people. Rising cases might also reflect circumstances involving pandemic restrictions, including delayed medical care for early signs of diabetes or unhealthy eating habits and inactivity in people already at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Read more here.
COVID by the Numbers: Illinois Case Numbers Begin to Flatten After Long Decline
After a long decline from the heights of the omicron variant, Illinois’ COVID case numbers have begun to flatten out, along with the state’s hospitalization rates.
According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state reported 1,574 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the daily average to 1,251 new cases per day.
That represents a slight increase from March 8, when the state’s average hit its low-point of 1,114 new cases per day, according to IDPH data.
Read more here.
Chicago’s Top Doctor Keeps Cautious Eye on COVID’s Rapid Spread in China
More than two weeks after the city removed its mask and proof-of-vaccination mandates, health officials say that they are keeping a close eye on the rapid spread of COVID-19 in China, with cases soaring higher in the country than at any point since the pandemic originally began.
According to officials, the entire Chinese province of Jilin is currently under lockdown due to the surge in COVID cases, with more than 4,000 new cases of the omicron variant recorded in the country, according to a report from NPR.
Since the start of March, China has reported more than 10,000 new COVID cases, according to NBC News, and the country’s “no-COVID” strategies are being increasingly challenged by the variant’s rapid spread.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that the rapid spread of omicron proves that the world will need to have its thinking evolve from eliminating COVID to coping with it and tamping down major surges.
“We of course are watching very closely, and I will say omicron in particular has proven that you cannot have a zero COVID strategy,” she said. “China was trying to do that, and it’s just so much more infectious that they are seeing big surges and they are trying to navigate what to do in that setting.”
16 States Removed From Chicago Travel Advisory Ahead of Busy Spring Break
Sixteen states were dropped from Chicago’s travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the city’s warning list down to 18 states and one territory as spring break travel begins.
The city’s health department announcedArizona, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming had all dropped below the threshold to be on the travel warning list.
An additional eight states could be dropped next week if they remain below the threshold.
Read more here.
Lightfoot Pushes Back Against Requests for Testing Exception, Says Vaccine Mandate Still in Effect
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says that disciplinary action is still planned for city workers that have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but there are still efforts ongoing to try to convince her administration to alter their mitigation strategies.
Lightfoot reiterated her stance on Monday, saying that Chicago police officers and other city workers that have not yet reported their vaccine status will face consequences.
“We will enforce the rules, and my expectation is that the vast majority of police officers who are already vaccinated will come into compliance,” she said.
Read more here.
Which COVID Vaccine Will Be Best for Children Under 5?
With masks coming off in several states and many COVID restrictions lifting in the U.S., many are anxiously awaiting news that children under the age of 5 could be eligible for vaccination.
Already, Chicago has lifted its masking and vaccination mandates and Illinois has lifted its indoor mask and school mask mandates. On Monday, Chicago Public Schools began a mask-optional policy.
The changing guidelines surrounding COVID not just in Illinois have many parents questioning how best to protect their kids.
While the race is on to get the youngest members of the population vaccinated, which vaccine will work best?
Full breakdown here.
COVID, Cold, Allergies: How Can You Tell the Difference in Symptoms?
If you’re wondering whether that runny nose, sore throat or sneeze is simply allergies, just a cold, or possibly signs of COVID-19, you’re not alone.
With many experiencing cold-like symptoms, and with the start of spring allergies, it can be hard to decipher what could be behind the onset of symptoms.
Experts say the only real way to know the answer is to test, but until then, health officials say to treat any possible symptoms as COVID.
Read more here for a breakdown of symptoms.
Next Round of Free COVID Test Kits Begins Arriving in Mail. Here’s How to Order Yours
Free COVID test kits have started arriving at many U.S. homes once again after a second round of tests from the government were released earlier this month.
In his State of the Union remarks, President Joe Biden said that in addition to starting a new antiviral initiative, his administration would allow people in the U.S. to order another round of free tests from the government. Many who placed their orders when the tests became available at the start of March have reported receiving their second shipment.
Here’s what we know so far.
What Is Deltacron? What to Know as Cases of COVID Strain Confirmed by WHO
Cases of a COVID-19 variant known as “deltacron” have emerged in several countries so far this year, but what is it and what do we know so far?
The hybrid strain has been making headlines since January, when researchers said they first detected it, but many experts were quick to question it.
Here’s a breakdown.