CDC’s laboratory test kit for coronavirus | Photo: CDC

State health officials are now recommending masks in public indoor spaces for Lake and McHenry counties after the CDC upgraded the two counties to “high community level” for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated 15 Illinois counties, including Lake and McHenry, as having a high COVID-19 community level on Thursday.

The CDC now recommends people in these counties wear masks indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status.

Those who are immunocompromised or high risk should wear a face covering that provides greater protection, like a respirator, and consider avoiding non-essential indoor public activities.

Those living with someone at high risk for severe disease should consider self-testing and wearing a mask when in contact with them indoors.

The CDC also recommends people living in high community level areas maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces.

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Officials continue to recommend residents get vaccinated and boosted, and anyone exposed to COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms should get tested.

Counties other than Lake and McHenry that are now rated at a high community level are Cook, DuPage, Will, Grundy, Boone, Lee, Winnegabo, Fulton, Knox, Henderson, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell.

According to the CDC, a county’s COVID-19 community level is based on data such as new cases and inpatient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Last month, the CDC rated Lake and four other counties as having a medium community level.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said nearly 22.3 million vaccines have been administered in the state and more than 76% of Illinois’ total population has received at least one dose.

“With 15 counties in Illinois now rated at a High Community Level, everyone in the state should be paying close attention to the guidance from public health authorities and taking action to protect themselves, their loved ones, and friends,” IDPH Acting Director Amaal Tokars said.

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“Everyone should make sure they are up-to-date with vaccinations and booster shots. Wearing a mask in indoor public places and avoiding crowded indoor spaces as much as possible will also make a difference.”

“If you are at risk of severe outcomes, you should also consider avoiding indoor activities in public places. And if you test positive, promptly contact a healthcare provider to discuss which treatment is right for you. The treatments are much more effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths when they are taken early in the course of the illness,” Tokars added.