Masks in Schools, Free COVID Tests From the Government – NBC Chicago

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Another round of free COVID tests from the government is set to be released soon, but how and when can you get them?

The new tests come as Illinois and Chicago lift COVID mandates and as Chicago Public Schools announces it aims to lift its masking requirements in the near future.

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

COVID Symptoms in Children: What to Look For as Many Await Vaccines

With some children still unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and masks coming off at several Illinois schools, many parents are wondering what symptoms they should watch for in children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children experience similar symptoms to adults, and in many cases suffer from milder illness.

“While children are as likely to get COVID-19 as adults, kids are less likely to become severely ill,” the Mayo Clinic reports. “Up to 50% of children and adolescents might have COVID-19 with no symptoms. However, some children with COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe.”

Here’s what to look for.

Chicago Doctor Who Spoke Out About COVID Testing Site Concerns Claims Retaliation

As the number of COVID-19 infections continues to drop, serious questions remain about the pop-up testing sites that cropped up during the pandemic. Should the industry be regulated? Many say “yes.” 

Since the start of 2022, federal regulators have launched investigations into at least four COVID testing companies and their partner laboratories based in the Chicago area. One of those companies is Center for COVID Control (CCC).

CCC attributed delays with test results and other customer complaints to the Omicron surge of infections that rocked the country this past December.  

Amidst several state and federal investigations, the company announced in January that it would close down its operations for the foreseeable future.

Read more here.

CPS to Lift Mask Mandate in Schools ‘in the Near Future,’ Officials Say

As face-covering requirements continue to lift throughout Illinois, Chicago Public Schools officials say classrooms are expected make masks optional for students and teachers “in the near future.”

According to a statement from CPS, schools would ease COVID-19 restrictions due to the low number of positive cases across the district and declining hospitalization rates.

“The details of such a transition are in development but once final, we will communicate with students, parents, staff and community members,” CPS added.

Read more here.

Another Round of Free COVID Tests From the Government Available Starting Next Week

More free COVID tests from the government will soon become available, even for those who already received their first shipment, President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union address.

In his remarks Tuesday, Biden said that in addition to starting a new antiviral initiative, his administration would allow people in the U.S. to order another round of free tests from the government.

Read more here.

What’s Next for Illinois’ Top Doctor? Here’s What Dr. Ezike’s Says Is Her New Priority After Leaving IDPH

After Tuesday’s announcement that Illinois’ top doctor would be leaving her position later this month, the state’s Department of Public Health Director Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike detailed her next focus.

In an emotional address Tuesday, Ezike thanked Illinoisans for allowing her to lead the state through a global pandemic and said it’s time for her to make her family a priority after a number of “sacrifices” the past two years.

Read more here.

COVID Infection Could Cause Erectile Dysfunction, Decreased Fertility, New Study Shows

A COVID-19 infection has the ability to reach the male genital tract, causing health problems in the penis, testicles and prostate, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine.

The study found that the coronavirus infection caused testicular pain, erectile dysfunction, reduced sperm count and decreased fertility in a number of subjects.

Northwestern warned that “millions” of men could be affected by the results of the study and that men previously infected with COVID should “evaluate their sexual health.”

Read more here.

‘She Will Go Down in the Illinois History Books’: IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike Leaving Post

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike will be leaving her position later this month after serving three years in the role, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday.

Ezike will serve her last day as Illinois’ top doctor on March 14. Dr. Amaal Tokars, who is currently the assistant director of IDPH, will serve as interim director as a nationwide search is launched to find a permanent replacement, according to the governor’s office.

In announcing her departure, Pritzker proclaimed Tuesday Dr. Ngozi Ezike Day in Illinois, acknowledging her role in the state’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“No number of sleepless nights and endless days could wear down her commitment to think first and foremost of Illinois’ most vulnerable,” Pritzker said. “I ran for office, I ran for office. She did not. But throughout the crisis, she has stood beside me every step of the way. I am not putting it lightly when I say that she has had one of the hardest jobs in the world. There is something particularly heroic about the service of an extraordinary individual who did not seek greatness, but found it anyway.”

Read more here.

5 More States, Territories Removed From Chicago Travel Advisory

Five states and territories were dropped from Chicago’s travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the city’s warning list down to 47 states and one territory.

The city’s health department announced the District of Columbia, Nebraska, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all came off the advisory this week.

By next week, the city noted more than a dozen other locations could be removed.

Read more here.

Pritzker Issues Updated Executive Order as Mask Mandate Ends

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an updated executive order on Monday, officially ending mandatory masking in most indoor settings in the state.

According to the new order, masks will no longer be required inside of most businesses and will not be required inside of schools, but those institutions will be allowed to enact their own mask requirements at their own discretion, according to the order.

Read more here.



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