Cook County urges extra COVID-19 precautions ahead of holiday gatherings

·2 min read

The Cook County Department of Public Health is urging residents to get COVID-19 booster doses, forgo in-person office holiday parties and take other heightened precautions, days after the first case of the omicron variant of the virus was discovered in suburban Cook County.

Suspected cases of the new omicron variant are rising, and likely to spread quickly, the health department said in a statement Friday. Still, the highly-contagious delta variant is the most common strain, the department said.

Sixteen cases of the omicron variant had been reported in Illinois Friday.

The health department is urging unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated, and vaccinated residents to get their boosters. All adults are eligible to receive boosters, and teens ages 16 and 17 are eligible to receive a Pfizer booster.

Unvaccinated residents should not gather indoors with anyone outside their household, the department said. It “strongly urged” testing two to three days before an indoor gathering, and on the morning of the gathering. Residents should continue to wear masks at indoor gatherings and businesses.

Businesses should hold virtual holiday gatherings, the department said. They should also require vaccination for entry into the business or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours.

The omicron variant seems to have a large number of mutations that could mean it’s more transmissible. But much uncertainty remains, such as whether symptoms from the new variant could be more severe or whether the existing coronavirus vaccines are as protective.

So far, many cases in vaccinated individuals have reportedly resulted in mild symptoms.

State health officials on Friday reported 59,312 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 statewide for the week. They also reported 316 more people had died of the virus since Dec. 10, bringing the death toll to 27,117.

sfreishtat@chicagotribune.com

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