Watch CBS News

Public health officials issue warning with COVID, other respiratory infections on rise in Illinois

Illinois health officials issue warning about surging respiratory viruses
Illinois health officials issue warning about surging respiratory viruses 02:22

CHICAGO (CBS) -- For the last few weeks, we've been talking about all the respiratory viruses surging after the holidays.

COVID-19, the flu, and RSV are all hitting hard – and a warning has been issued by health officials statewide. In particular as COVID cases gradually increase, health leaders are reminding people to take the necessary precautions in protecting themselves.

Chicago saw a 14 percent spike in COVID hospitalizations in a period of just a week – with no signs of the virus letting up.

The new JN.1 variant is to blame for the latest spike.

"It is definitely spreading quickly, and that's what's probably causing this surge," said Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist with the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health.

Across Illinois, there were 888 new COVID hospital admissions this week – a 17.2 percent change from the prior week.

Wallace said this recent surge is combined with the fact that so many people traveled recently.

"It was already starting before the holiday, and now it is increasing," she said. "COVID hospitalizations and flu hospitalizations are both increasing."

The spike is resulting in Chicago area hospitals to change their policies. Starting Monday, Silver Cross hospitals will join the likes of Rush University Medical Center and its two suburban satellite hospitals to mandate the use of masks once again.

"So that's why we are seeing hospitals reimplementing mask mandates, because this is another layer of mitigation," said Wallace, "and they have a vulnerable population of people that are coming there because they're sick."

A total of 18 counties in Illinois are listed at the high level for COVID hospitalizations – and 43 counties are at the medium level, including Cook, DuPage, Lake, and McHenry counties.

But COVID is not the only problem. Wallace said in addition to COVID cases, more people are becoming ill with the flu too.

"So we have COVID hospitalizations and flu hospitalizations both increasing right now," Wallace said. "Both of them have an effective vaccine that prevents severe disease and hospitalization. However, only about 12.6 percent of Chicagoans have taken the new COVID vaccine, and the flu vaccine uptake is also not where we want it to be."

Of course, if you have a pre-existing health condition, it is still recommended to get the flu and COVID vaccine. Keep in mind that you have not had a recent booster, you are more prone to catching COVID or the flu – and doctors say the vaccine will keep you from going to the hospital.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.