U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy urges COVID boosters during Chicago visit as cases rise again

“The bottom line is we have protection available. It’s just upon all of us now to make sure people use those tools,” the surgeon general said.

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks with reporters on Sept. 21, 2021.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, shown meeting the press in Cicero in September 2021, spoke in Chicago on Thursday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday urged Chicagoans to roll up a sleeve for the latest COVID-19 booster shot as vaccination rates lag while viral cases and hospitalizations are rising once again during the holiday season.

The nation’s top doctor said during a Near North Side appearance that he does “not expect this winter to be as bad as last winter when we had the omicron variant” — but that’s dependent on people using the pandemic resources that are available to them.

“The bottom line is we have protection available. It’s just upon all of us now to make sure people use those tools,” Murthy said. “If you’ve gotten the updated vaccine, please make sure you talk to your family and your friends and make sure they get the updated vaccine because cases are rising. We want to make sure everyone’s safe.”

Only about 16% of Chicagoans have received the latest bivalent COVID-19 booster, which offers better protection against the latest strains of the virus and has now been approved for everyone 6 months or older.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus across Illinois as of Wednesday night, the most since mid-February. Average daily case counts have jumped more than 44% statewide since Thanksgiving.

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

“We want to make sure that we’re protecting ourselves and our family members during this winter season, and a few simple steps can actually help us a great deal,” Murthy said. “One of them is getting that updated COVID vaccine, but also getting our flu shot. And you can do both at the same time.”

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks to Chicago teens at the After School Matters program.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks to Chicago teens who are part of the After School Matters program.

Rah Foard/Office of the U.S. Surgeon General

Murthy spoke at a City Club of Chicago luncheon to participate in a panel discussion on youth mental health, sponsored by the After School Matters program and Adler University.

Murthy, who also served as surgeon general under former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, said the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues for young people.

“Many of them are struggling with the sense of social anxiety coming out of this isolation, the pandemic and reintegrating into some sort of new normal. It’s stressful for many,” Murthy said. “This is why it’s so important for us to listen to young people, and to invest in school- and community-based mental health programs.”

COVID vaccinations are free and readily available at major pharmacies. The Chicago Department of Public Health also offers free in-home vaccination appointments that can be arranged at chicago.gov/athome or (312) 746-4835.

For more help finding a shot, visit vaccines.gov.

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