As federal, state and local health officials monitor the spread and impact of the new omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, case data recorded over the past week shows that both positivity rates and new cases are on the rise locally.

However, as vaccines continue to proliferate, inoculations appear to be limiting the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, with the daily number of patients requiring ICU beds and ventilators far below those needing such treatment a year ago.

As for the weekly number of new COVID-19 cases, Brookfield as of Dec. 6 recorded its largest number in a seven-day period since April 20. During the previous week, Brookfield recorded 48 new cases, equaling the highest weekly total the village recorded during the spring surge.

In Riverside and North Riverside, which added 16 and 14 new cases, respectively for the week ending Dec. 6, numbers were similar to a increases those two villages experienced in mid-September.

Those case increases are reflected in recent positivity rates locally. On Dec. 3 the seven-day rolling positivity rate in the 60546 ZIP code was 2.33 percent, which is up from a month ago when the positivity rate hovered below 1 percent.

In Brookfield as of Dec. 3 the seven-day rolling positivity rate was 4.51 percent. Exactly one month ago, the rate was 2.05 percent.

The delta variant of the novel coronavirus still appears to be the main driver of new infections, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health. Genomic sequencing tests performed in Cook County on samples during the past two weeks indicated the delta variant accounted for 99.4 percent of those cases.

The new omicron variant was not detected in any of the samples, though health officials believe that variant is present.

“It’s almost inevitable that it has arrived here,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health in a Q&A about the omicron variant last week. “While this variant seems to be more contagious, we also have a better chance to contain it because we were aware of it early, with only a few hundred cases to date.”

Tests are being conducted to determine how existing vaccines protect against the new variant.

“It’s wise to be concerned and cautious, but there is no reason to panic,” Rubin said. “There will be no lockdowns or anything of the sort, at least for now. The current remediations and recommendations should stay in place for the time being, and we urge everyone to follow them. It is especially important to stay masked and maintain physical distancing indoors unless only with your household.”

None of the three villages reported any new fatalities as a result of novel coronavirus infection in the week-long period ending Dec. 6. That’s one of the differences the area has seen from a year ago, when communities were experiencing dramatic increases not only in new cases, but the severity of those cases.

Between Nov. 1, 2020 and Dec. 20, 2020, there were seven deaths in Brookfield and one death in Riverside as a result of COVID-19. There has been one death from COVID-19 in Brookfield and none in Riverside and North Riverside since Nov. 1, 2021.

Riverside did have one fatality in October, but that person was the only Riverside resident to die from COVID-19 so far in 2021. North Riverside has not recorded a death from COVID-19 since Jan. 11.

Vaccine rates also continue to climb. On Dec. 6 the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 66.1 percent of Illinois residents age 5 and older were fully vaccinated, with 74.1 percent having received at least one dose.

Closer to home, 68.4 percent of Riverside residents were reported fully vaccinated with 87.9 having had at least one dose. In Brookfield those numbers were 62.9/80.2 and in North Riverside they were 61.2/76.5.

Statewide the impact of vaccines is being felt in hospital intensive care units. On Dec. 5, 2021 the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that COVID-19 patients accounted for 579 beds in the state’s ICUs, compared to 1,103 on Dec. 5, 2020.

Also on Dec. 5, 2021, 256 COVID-19 patients were on ventilators compared to exactly one year earlier, when there were 643.