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'Increase Your Vigilance': What Doctors Are Saying About Staying Safe From COVID As The Pandemic Continues Into The Holiday Season

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There's a troubling trendline in Illinois.

State leaders think there's a connection to Thanksgiving one week ago. In Illinois, COVID cases are up 24% in the last two weeks. COVID deaths are up 13%.

As folks ramp up social calendars with festivals like the Wrigleyville Christkindlmarket, experts say your antenna for risk should be up too. CBS 2's Chris Tye reports big events and a busy time of year that's concerning the physicians.

After a year without holiday staples, Chicagoans are back at their posts including iconic shopping spots, communal skate rinks and holiday festivals.

But Old St. Nick's 2021 debut is coinciding with the debut of the most concerning variant since Delta. And while the COVID variant Omicron has yet to arrive in Illinois, a Delta case surge has.

"The numbers are going up here in Illinois. We had 5,000 cases in Illinois logged Wednesday. So, it's going in the wrong direction," said Dr. Robert Murphy is Executive Director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Look at the direction two of our counties are headed: McHenry County has seen a massive spike of late with a 9.37% test positivity rate. Will County with a 7.69% test positivity rate. In both counties, cases are up over 20% in two weeks.

Numbers are high state-wide. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDHP) tells CBS 2:

"Today we are reporting a record high number of COVID-19 cases for 2021. While we are also reporting a record high number of tests across the entire pandemic, our test positivity rate is also high. Thanksgiving was one week ago and we are starting to see cases associated with family gatherings and travel. Additionally, there may be lags in reporting by laboratories over the long holiday weekend and we could see those results being reported now."

"The advice is to increase your vigilance."

Murphy said the best medicine for the vaccinated: awkward conversations with relatives.

"You can do it safely. That's the thing," Murphy said. "But you've got to, unfortunately, in family units if there are some people unwilling to get vaccinated. They can't be invited if you want to make it safe for everyone else."


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