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Cook County currently in ‘most severe’ phase of COVID-19 pandemic

Local healthcare resources are strained at this time and a fresh surge of COVID cases driven by the omicron variant is expected to cause further stress.

To put it in context, local public health officials are not mincing words to start 2022 regarding how the current situation with COVID-19 in Cook County compares with other stages of the pandemic.

“This is by far the most severe,” Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager said during a WTIP interview Jan. 5. “But, I feel, most severe in terms of the sheer number of people who have either tested positive, are feeling sick or have been exposed. I think the stress on our healthcare system is definitely cause for concern, but not for panic.”

There are several dozen active cases of COVID-19 among Cook County residents to start the first week of the new year. The total number of confirmed cases throughout the pandemic among local residents is now at least 440 as of Jan. 5.

Across most of the country, including Minnesota, the omicron variant is fueling the current wave of the pandemic. Grinager said it’s likely a combination of omicron and the delta variants that are leading to the current surge in Cook County.

With more cases in the community, local businesses and their employees continue to feel the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Grinager said Cook County public health officials are still recommending a full ten-day isolation period for those who test positive. This recommendation is subject to change in the weeks ahead, Grinager said, following guidance from the CDC to narrow the isolation window from ten days to five.

As the case count climbs, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic CEO Kate Surbaugh said in a statement sent to WTIP Jan. 3 that local healthcare facilities are already stretched thin, and when local physicians are attending multiple sick hospital patients, fewer clinic visits are available.

Local healthcare officials said that healthcare staff will be affected by illness, daycare closures and other consequences of a COVID surge.

Surbaugh said there are plans in place to ensure care for urgent needs, while non-urgent care may have to wait, it is possible appointments may need to be rescheduled.

Meanwhile, Cook County healthcare officials urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and noted that they continue to work to improve access to both over the counter antigen tests as well as timely vaccination opportunities in the community.

The audio below is the full interview with Grinager from a Jan. 5 interview with WTIP News Director Joe Friedrichs.