Pushed by the more contagious omicron variant, COVID-19 cases are increasing at a faster rate in Lake County, even though the county is the most vaccinated in Illinois, as inoculated people are also getting the disease.

At the same time, health care professionals said they are observing less severe symptoms in people who have received their shots.

The number of new cases increased 79.15%, to 1,141.22 per 100,000 residents, over the past week in Lake County, and the positivity rate of people testing positive for the disease jumped 40% to 17.68%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Mark Pfister, the executive director of the Lake County health department, said those who have received their vaccine are experiencing more mild cases. The omicron variant accounts for more than 60% of all cases now, and it is much more contagious.

“When one person in a family gets it, they all get it,” Pfister said. “In the breakthrough cases of fully vaccinated people, they are much less severe, and of those hospitalized there are less deaths.”

Dr. Lavanya Srinivasan, a pulmonary and critical care specialist with Vista Physicians Group, said in an email cases decline in severity based on whether a patient is fully vaccinated, and even more so if they received a booster shot.

“Symptoms for patients with breakthrough cases of COVID-19 who have had the vaccine and booster tend to be mild,” Srinivasan said in the email. “Those who have been vaccinated but not boosted tend to have mild to moderate symptoms. We’re seeing the unvaccinated patients facing the brunt of the severe symptoms.”

Dr. Michael Bauer, the medical director at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, said in an email vaccinated people contacting the omicron variant are experiencing milder symptoms compared to previous strains like the delta variant.

Bauer said those vaccinated getting breakthrough cases have symptoms similar to respiratory viruses, “causing sore throats, congestion, and fatigue.”

“We are not seeing the loss of smell and taste in the majority of these patients, and they are recovering fairly quickly at home,” he said in the email. “Unvaccinated individuals tend to have more severe symptoms.”

While Pfister continues to stress people wear masks, maintain social distance and wash hands frequently, when they are in an enclosed setting he recommends KN95, KF94 and N95 masks be worn.

“They have more layers to purify the air you breathe,” Pfister said. “We know the omicron variant is much more contagious.”

Hospitalizations also continue to grow in Lake County. Officials at Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville and Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington reported 208 people hospitalized there. As of Friday, there were 32 hospitalized at Vista, 93 at Condell and 63 at Good Shepherd.

Information was not available from Lake Forest Hospital.

Rachel Loberg, chief nursing officer at Condell, said in an email the increased number of people hospitalized continues to put a strain on the hospitals. Patients, mostly unvaccinated, are experiences a range of symptoms from mild to severe.

“Those patients who are hospitalized are just as sick as they were a year ago and the majority are unvaccinated, regardless of which variant is currently most prevalent,” she said in the email.

While cases are growing quickly in Lake County, surrounding counties are experiencing similar or higher growth, with less people vaccinated. Suburban Cook County experienced a 26.91% growth to 1,449.24 cases per 100,000 residents, while in McHenry County there was a 50.08% rise to 1,097 cases per 100,000.

The positivity rate in Cook County is 19%, and 22.31% in McHenry.

Source: https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/ct-lns-lake-vax-update-st-0108-20220107-khtl3qpic5h3pkcrxptcsacvgy-story.html