Chicago moved to “high” COVID-19 levels Thursday night


Chicago moved to "high" COVID-19 levels Thursday night

Chicago entered “high” community levels of COVID-19 Thursday night, officials said, as the city prepares for an estimated 1.4 million people to visit Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season.

The development affects areas such as Chicago, Cook County and surrounding counties in northeastern Illinois, and counties around Peoria, according to an emailed statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The counties listed at high community level are Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will, Grundy, Boone, Lee and Winnebago in northern Illinois, and Fulton, Knox, Henderson, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell in central Illinois, the statement said .

Another 30 counties in Illinois are now classified at the intermediate community level, according to the CDC.

However, the new designation will not trigger a reintroduction of mask requirements or vaccination requirements, officials said at a news conference earlier Thursday, as the city’s healthcare system remains “stable”. Instead, officials emphasized the importance of voluntarily wearing masks indoors in public again and getting vaccinated and strengthened.

“As we approach summer and the Memorial Day long holiday weekend, it is important for our city to safely welcome visitors and reassure them and our residents that we are taking public health measures,” the Department of Commerce said Chicago and Consumer Advocate Kenneth Meyer. “As a doctor, I just want to reiterate that we are not reinstating mask or vaccination requirements as the Chicago healthcare system remains stable. However, as cases remain high, we strongly encourage residents and visitors to wear masks. … I also encourage everyone to get vaccinated and get their booster shots as soon as possible.”

As of early Thursday, eight other Illinois counties are currently recording high transmission levels, including Champaign and neighboring Ford, and Winnebago, Stephenson, and Boone counties in the Rockford area.

Chicago Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said the city is “fairly confident” that hospitalizations are the reason Cook County, including Chicago, is getting into the higher risk metric used by the CDC.

Last week, the county was at 9.8 new admissions per 100,000, the database shows. When a region hits 10 new weekly intakes per 100,000, the CDC considers it “high risk.”

“The CDC looks at the whole field of healthcare when it comes to things like hospitalizations,” Arwady said. “With the latest updates, the city of Chicago is averaging 290 cases per 100,000. Anything over 200 over the past seven days has been over target, but you can see Cook County is up 367 overall.

The Midwest region is now among those with the highest COVID-19 cases in the country, and Arwady said that’s because the Midwest is doing more testing than the South, and also because “we have this soft variant ( by Omicron) straight through.”

The CDC categorizes areas of low, moderate, or high level transmission in the community based on case numbers, hospital admissions, and inpatient bed utilization.

Arwady recommended people avoid crowded indoor gatherings, get tested if they show flu- or COVID-like symptoms, and create a preventive treatment plan with a GP for immunocompromised people.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer booster for children ages 5 to 11, even though children in this age group are lagging behind on COVID-19 vaccinations overall.

As cases mount, the FDA is poised to review data from Moderna and Pfizer trials in children ages 6 months to 5 years on June 15, a much-anticipated move toward approving a vaccine for the youngest and last age group.

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