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Lake County COVID-19 community transmission level is high

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified its recommendations to curb the spread of COVID-19, Lake County remains at a high community level of transmission based on the number of new cases and hospitalizations.

The CDC released its new guidelines Thursday recognizing the expansive tools to control the disease and the same day it kept Lake County at a high risk for community transmission for the 13th consecutive week with the exception of the week between June 16 and 23.

Mark Pfister, the executive director of the Lake County Health Department, said the goals of the new CDC guidelines are designed to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and deaths. Vaccination and booster shots are the best way to do that.

“What we know after 888 (2½ years) days of living with COVID is vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk, prevent infection or both,” Pfister said. “Now we have antivirals and other treatments or therapeutics. We still have masks, social distancing and hand washing.”

dr Ninad Dixit, the chief medical officer at Vista Health Systems in Waukegan, said in an email the new CDC protocols reflect the changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic with many in the community developing a level of immunity from vaccination or having the disease.

“The newer Omicron variances are more infectious but not necessarily causing more serious infections,” Dixit said. “That is what we are seeing across Lake County as the hospitalizations have not increased despite very high infectivity in the communities.”

Lake County experienced 218.37 new cases of COVID-19 and 13.3 residents hospitalized with the illness per 100,000 residents for the week ending Thursday, according to the CDC. If the average new cases are over 200,000 or hospitalizations exceed 10%, the community is high risk.

Neighboring Cook and McHenry Counties are now at moderate risk. Suburban Cook County averaged 192.3 new cases and 13.3% hospitalizations while McHenry County averaged 189.3 new cases and 13.3 people hospitalized per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC.

Across the state line in Kenosha County, the area is now at high risk with 207.59 new cases and 12.8% people hospitalized, according to the CDC. Pfister said the only new cases reported are those done by health care professionals or clinics. Home testing is not included.

There are currently 14 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, five at Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, 23 at Advocate Condell Medical Libertyville in Libertyville and 16 at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, according to officials there.

With Moderna announcing earlier in the year it will have a bivalent vaccine this fall protecting against both the original strain of COVID and the variations of the Omicron variant, Pfister said some people are waiting for those to arrive before getting their second booster.

“A lot of people over 50 are not getting boosted,” Pfister said. “When you are around somebody who is immunocompromised or high risk, you should wear a high quality mask and be careful. We could see a surge with children returning to school.”

Mary Roesch, chief nursing officer at Good Shepherd said in an email to everyone who is eligible for a second booster shot should get one now rather than wait for the newest version. Though Moderna said it will be available in the fall, that could be months away. Anyone six months old or older is eligible.

“Vaccines are safe, effective and available,” Roesch said. “If you haven’t already, please take this important step to protect yourself and our community from future surges.”

dr Michael Bauer, the medical director at Lake Forest hospital said in an email there could be a spread of the disease because of the continuing number of new cases in the area. He said that will be a good test of the new CDC guidelines.

“While there are some updated recommendations regarding quarantine, exposures, testing, isolation duration and masking, it remains to be seen what will happen as children and young adults return to school,” Bauer said.

Now the CDC recommends if a person is exposed to an individual with COVID-19, quarantine is not necessary, according to a news release issued Thursday. Wearing a high quality mask and testing the fifth day after exposure are the guidelines. Those with the disease should still isolate. Isolation can be terminated after a negative test.

Those who test positive can end isolation after five days if they have no fever or the past 24 hours. Those who tested positive should stay away from people with a high risk of getting the disease for 10 days, according to the CDC. Those who are more susceptible should isolate for 10 days. If the disease is severe, consult a health care provider.

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