As Chicago transitions to heightened COVID risk, when might mask mandate return? – NBC Chicago

Chicago moved from “low” to “medium” risk of transmission of COVID-19 on Friday, so when can health officials bring back restrictions such as the mask mandate?

The Chicago Department of Public Health now “strongly” recommends that people wear a mask in public and indoors due to the increase in cases, but that does not mean that a face covering is applied.

On Friday, CDPH Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady said the citywide mandate is not valid and will not be reinstated unless Chicago moves from medium to high. However, she reminded that people can spread COVID two days before symptoms appear, so masking is a strong form of protection at this time.

“The way the current COVID variables behave, these are the measures that we will consider if we get to that high COVID-19 community level — which we are not close to in Chicago right now. But we obviously don’t want to get there, and be More caution now will help us keep Covid under control in Chicago.”

Chicago is newly at the medium risk level, although Arwady said health officials expect the city to reach that point “for some time now.”

Arwady said, “This is not a cause for concern, because at the moment most cases are mild, and thank God, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are still at low levels of the epidemic in or near Chicago. But this is a reason for extra caution, and Take extra care using masks, since more people in Chicago have COVID at the moment.”

Chicagoans are also encouraged to stay up to date on vaccinations and booster shots, as well as get tested for the virus if they develop any symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines community COVID levels as low, medium, and high, based on cases, hospitalizations, and hospital capacity over the past week.

Over the past seven days, Cook County and Chicago have combined 259 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, causing the area to move above the 200-case threshold for the average risk level.

To reach a high transmission level, however, Chicago area hospitals will need to increase, CDPH noted. Health officials said there is “little short-term risk” of it reaching a high level and that new mandates are not imminent.

As of Friday, nearly all of the Chicago area had moderate risk levels for the virus, according to the CDC.

As of Friday, Cook, Kane, McHenry, Lake, DuPage, DeKalb, Kendall and Will counties are listed within the CDC’s “medium community” alert level, the second highest on the CDC’s scale. At least six other counties in the state—including McLean, Logan, Sangamon, Douglas, Champaign, and Winnebago counties—are also at this level.

Last week, only five counties were at the median community level.

Here’s what the CDC recommends for counties below the average alert level:

As of Friday, no community was said to have a high rate of transmission in Illinois, although several counties in the Northeast have reached that rating.

Counties that reach a high community level are urged to re-wear masks for all individuals indoors regardless of vaccination status and to consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities.

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