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COVID-19 Cases Spike In Chicago And Beyond As CDC Changes Quarantine Guidelines; CPS Wants Students To Take COVID Tests Before Returning

CHICAGO (CBS) -- COVID-19 cases are surging across Illinois and the nation, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new rules for quarantine.

The CDC announced Monday that it is shortening the recommended times people should isolate when they have tested positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they don't have symptoms.

Vaccinated people exposed to the virus are also told to quarantine just five days, and the CDC People who are fully vaccinated and boosted may not need to quarantine at all, the CDC said.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, despite the changes from the CDC and the spike in cases, the Chicago Public Schools are standing by their decision to resume classes a week from Monday. But CPS is reinforcing the need for many students to take at-home COVID-19 test kits and get the results to labs quickly.

Meanwhile, more Chicago area hospitals are joining Rush University Medical Center in forbidding visitors from entering the doors. It is a trend we saw early in the pandemic.

We have seen the long lines at clinics throughout Illinois – people have been rushing to get a COVID test. Some stores quickly sold out of at-home test kits too.

As noted, CPS is also reminding students and staff at 300 schools not to forget to swipe. More than 150,000 CPS students have already received at-home test kits.

CPS wants parents to remember classes resume Jan. 3 – so they are encouraging students and staff get tested by Tuesday in order to get results back for the start of classes in the New Year.

"Right now, we're absolutely seeing the highest surge in cases from across the entire pandemic for the past two years," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Monday.

This comes after Illinois also saw a 93 percent increase of people hospitalized for COVID-19 since the start of the month.

Despite the Omicron variant contributing to the new cases in Chicago and across the country, the CDC on Monday reduced the number of days people need to quarantine – saying five days are now good enough.

"If you are asymptomatic and you're infected, we want to get people back to the jobs - particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. "So I think that was a very prudent and good choice on the part of the CDC."

You can still get a free COVID-19 test if you stop by a community-based testing center. On Monday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the sites will now stay open six days a week to meet the growing demand.

But the priority is still to get people vaccinated.

"What we're doing is expanding the tens of thousands the ability for people to get boosters to get vaccinated at this time when there is high demand," Pritzker said.

Also late Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union said the Chicago Public Schools failed to get those at-home kits into the hands of the families who need them. On Tuesday, the CTU will hit a few neighborhoods giving out home tests.

The union is urging the district to reconsider in-person learning next week.

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