Chicago officials continue to monitor the BA.2 omicron subvariant as the city sees a “slight increase” in COVID-19 cases and test positivity over the past week, the Department of Health said Wednesday. health.
Despite the uptick, Chicago’s public health department said the city maintains “good control” over the outbreak after lifting mask and vaccine requirements about a month ago.
Over the past week, an average of 223 Chicagoans have tested positive for COVID each day, according to CDPH data. Chicago’s test positivity has increased over the past week to 1.3% on an average of 20,016 tests per day.
Chicago is averaging 10 COVID hospitalizations and less than one death per day, which is near the lowest average since the pandemic began, CDPH noted.
Health officials said Chicago, Cook County and all counties in Illinois remain at low risk for transmission, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is not surprising to see a slight increase in cases as behaviors change, but we continue to monitor this closely,” said CDPH Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady. “While the increase in cases is about people, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from serious consequences remains the same: make sure you’re up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations.”
The BA.2 subvariant of COVID, otherwise known as “stealth omicron,” is now the dominant strain of the virus in the Midwest and the United States, according to new estimates released Tuesday by the CDC.
Estimates peg the percentage of BA.2 cases at 50.4% of all COVID cases in a six-state region of the Midwest that includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. CDPH said officials will continue to monitor this strain.
In the United States as a whole, the CDC estimates that 54.9% of all COVID cases are linked to the “stealth omicron” variant.
Experts said they believe the BA.2 subvariant will eventually become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States, following a pattern established in China, Israel and parts of Europe, all of which are seeing a increase in COVID cases due to the variant.
While most COVID-19 restrictions are being eased across Europe, including Austria, Britain, Denmark, Germany and France, the number of infections has increased slightly in recent days.
While nationwide cases have started to rise in recent weeks, the number of cases in the state of Illinois has remained largely stable. As of Tuesday, the state averaged 1,178 new COVID cases per day, an increase of 10% over the past week.
Hospitalizations remain near record highs, as do ICU admissions due to COVID, but officials say they will continue to monitor COVID trends in case a significant increase in cases is seen.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says he doesn’t foresee a further rise in cases, but says the new subvariant could lead to an increase in COVID cases in the coming weeks.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, the BA.2 subvariant spreads about 75% faster than the previous omicron version, BA.1. Even still, the spikes in cases in the UK and Germany caused by the variant have already started to recede.
Experts also suggest that BA.2 does not make people sicker than previous strains of the omicron variant, according to data from South Africa and the United Kingdom.