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Chicago’s top doctor ‘concerned’ about COVID variant Omicron and CPS to launch voluntary COVID testing for students – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago’s top doctor has said the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could be detected in Chicago very soon.

Dr Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), said Omicron has emerged quickly in South Africa and, while of concern, the COVID vaccine remains the best defense.

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“As of yesterday (Monday), it had already been detected in Africa and Asia, Australia, Europe, Canada,” Arwady said. “It had not been detected in the United States, but I have no reason to believe that there are not at least a few cases here and I would expect us to officially detect it in a few. days or weeks. “

Arwady added “I’m worried about this. No, the sky is not falling on us, but we have to be serious and we have to get people vaccinated. “

The city’s school district will launch a pilot program that will start at an anonymous school to test for COVID for students who consent to be tested. It’s called Test to Stay and it’s where students can choose to take a COVID test to stay in school. Dr. Allie Sontag is a nurse practitioner in the Chicago Public School Office of Student Health and Welfare.

She said the feedback CPS has received from parents is the need for in-depth communication. Sontag said the CPS is working to make sure the information is available to parents.

“This week we have a short list of schools that we will be looking at,” Sontag said. “We don’t select a school based on the school. He must have a case. So we have a shortlist of schools that have expressed interest from this list. If there is a case that arises this week, we will set up testing to keep it optional. It is not mandatory. Families will be offered the option of their students who would otherwise have been asked to self-quarantine to stay in school and participate in this regulated testing program. And we start with a school.

She added “this is really why we are starting small, looking at the details, making sure we have typed communications that our families both understand this process because it’s a little weird, no we have you said to stay home. And now we tell you to come just with a few caveats. So we want to make sure that we communicate clearly to our families who would have been his students would have been asked to quarantine as well as to the community school as a whole so that we can properly prepare these students to participate in activities during the stay program test

For CPS students, Dr Pedro Martinez, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, said the Test to Stay volunteer program will expand.

“The focus of the tests remains just to start small but extended throughout the school year because we don’t know,” Martinez said. “I cannot predict for you when COVID will be zero cases. So not knowing that I just really prefer to believe that it is planned for the long term so that we just keep building it until the end of the school year and really, if necessary, until the start of the next school year. So that’s really our goal. So we start small to learn. But just now that we’re going to speed it up and play, we’re playing the long game with it.

Martinez said CPS started with an elementary school.

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“Because that’s where we see the greatest racial quarantine. And so we work first, so some of them, some of our families have to get used to it. So you might think that every family wants this, but that’s not true. So we actually work with the directors, ”Martinez said.

He added that district staff are also moving forward with immunizing more people working for the CPS.

“Over 90 and over 90% are fully vaccinated. Again, we still have staff who are in their first attempt. We also have quite a few stages which have also received medical and religious dispensation. So we are still very happy with the situation with the staff, ”said Martinez. “We will continue to work with our staff who have never received a vaccine just to make sure we provide them with the information they have access to, but again I feel very comfortable.”

Arwady added that while it is only a matter of time when Omicron is detected in the region, the vaccine and the COVID booster can prevent its spread.

“I am not concerned with the detection of the variant. I am concerned about how we are responding to them. The way we react to the variant is to get vaccinated. Obtain boosters. As a reminder, all Chicagoans 18 and older should receive a vaccine booster, ”said Arwady.

As for children, Arwady said she was delighted that more children aged five to 11 are receiving at least the first dose of the COVID vaccine.

“I’m happy with the relatively quick adoption here, we’ve reached 23%. So almost one in four of five to eleven Chicagoans got that first dose and we’re just starting to see those second doses coming in because it’s been almost three weeks, or about three weeks, ”Arwady said. .

The head of the CDPH said there were around 200 sites across the city with access to the pediatric vaccine. For adults, nearly 700 locations across Chicago with the adult vaccine. Anyone with questions can call 312-746-4835. Arwady said that while a person’s doctor, pediatrician or health care provider is the first place people should go for the vaccine, there are a few community events that people can access the COVID vaccine. But Arwady said the city will make an effort to reach people’s homes to get them vaccinated.

“We are in the process of reducing some of the community specific events which tend to have relatively smaller numbers. We are transferring that capability into our home program. So, starting next week, for the first time, we will be expanding our application hosting program to seven days. The first meetings will therefore be available on weekends from December 11, ”said Arwady.

Dr Arwady said on Tuesday that California and North Carolina were no longer on Chicago’s travel advisory list. She has said for herself, personally, that the COVID vaccine has helped her enjoy the things she does before.

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“I felt very comfortable getting together over the holidays and really having a relatively normal life right now. I go to the theater, I go to the restaurant to do all of this because I am vaccinated and boosted because I know that the people around me, at least who are close, are vaccinated and boosted, “said Arwady,” I can I not can’t 100% predict what the future may be, but what I’ve learned time and time again is that you don’t want to wait for the potential worst-case scenario all the time here.

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