In the Chicago area, Cook, DuPage, Lake (IL), McHenry, Will and Grundy counties all appeared as “high risk” on the CDC’s map when it was updated Thursday afternoon.
WATCH | Dr. Arwady on what it means when Chicago moves to ‘high’ COVID risk
As the week winds down before Memorial Day weekend, Chicago’s top doctor is urging people to keep the masks on when going indoors because Chicago is now high risk.
“We ask everybody for this short time period while we are in high, put that mask on,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “Especially if you are in an indoor, crowded setting.”
The CDC’s COVID levels are based on an increase of cases and hospitalizations. But, the CDC looks at the entire healthcare region when looking at hospital numbers. Other counties are driving those numbers up. So far, Chicago hospitals remain steady.
“We had a COVID burden in our Chicago hospitals, approximately 10 times what we are seeing now, and a lot more severe illness,” Arwady said.
The average case count for the city is over 1,000 a day, but Dr. Arwady said there are signs that is plateauing. And compared to the start of the pandemic when 50 to 60 Chicagoans were dying each day, the current average now is 0 to 1.
At Edward Elmhurst Health, COVID-related hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past five weeks, but compared to other surges fewer patients are critically ill.
“Health Because of vaccinations and the protection they have and because of anti-viral treatments, we’re not seeing severe illness lead to death or ICU care as much,” said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control.
Along with Chicago, DuPage County and several other collar counties are also now considered at a “high” COVID community spread level, as defined by the CDC. And despite the rise in patients, Edward-Elmhurt Health’s operations are not impacted.
“We still have plenty of hospital beds available, and we’re still continuing to care for patients who don’t have COVID,” Pinsky said.
If deaths increase and hospitalizations return to January levels, Arwady said mask mandates will return. But, will people voluntarily wear masks indoors this weekend without a requirement?
“I’m going to wear my mask inside, it’s probably the right thing to do,” Michael Pattis said.
“It’s hard to breathe, plus it should be your choice to wear one or not,” Raymond Rodgers said. “I’m not going to do it.”
“If we move into high risk, I believe should have them,” Felicia Flowers said. “We need the protection, it’s not for ourselves, it’s for others around us.”
Not only are mask mandates not on the table right now, the city has no plans to bring any other mitigations back, like vaccine requirements or size restrictions on gatherings.
“I’m not concerned we are on some huge increase that is going to go on and on, out of control,” Arwady said.
To keep it under control, Arwady said more Chicagoans need to get boosted. The rate has remained low for months, with only 42% of eligible residents having received a booster shot.
In addition, Arwady said residents should avoid crowded indoor gatherings, limit gatherings to small numbers and test right away if you have symptoms.
Anyone who tests positive is asked to isolate for five days and if they are feeling better, they can go in public while wearing a mask for the next five days.
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