CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is emphasizing the importance of protecting vulnerable groups from seasonal respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, flu, and RSV. Amid rising COVID-19 hospital admissions in 48 counties, IDPH urges public vigilance, especially during the holiday season.
Ten Illinois counties are categorized at a High level for COVID-19 hospitalizations, with over 20 hospitalizations per 100,000 population. Thirty-eight counties are at a Medium level, indicating 10 to 20 hospitalizations per 100,000. Despite a slight decrease in new COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide, the IDPH remains cautious.
Dr. Sameer Vohra, IDPH Director, advises Illinoisans to be aware of their personal risk factors and the risks to those susceptible to severe illness. The department’s ’Tis the Sneezin’ campaign promotes vaccinations as a key defense against the triple threat of COVID-19, flu, and RSV.
IDPH recommends various safety practices for holiday gatherings, including improved indoor ventilation, hand hygiene, and mask-wearing for symptomatic individuals. The latest COVID-19 vaccines, effective against dominant variants, are advised for everyone aged 6 months and older. Flu vaccines, now available for those with egg allergies, and RSV shots for specific groups are also encouraged.
To keep the public informed, IDPH has launched an Infectious Respiratory Disease Surveillance Dashboard, updated weekly, and directs attention to a new national respiratory virus dashboard by the CDC.
Furthermore, the federal government provides free at-home COVID tests and covers vaccine costs for uninsured or under-insured individuals. Illinois residents can access telehealth services for COVID-19 symptoms through the SIU School of Medicine Covid Test to Treat services. Additional resources and a comprehensive toolkit are available at https://www.covid.gov/.