Chicago may move to ‘high’ Covid-19 level Thursday night

Chicago is expected to move to a “high” community level of COVID-19 early Thursday night, officials said, as the city prepares for an estimated 1.4 million people to visit Chicago for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season. .

The new appointment will not lead to re-authorizations of masks or vaccine requirements, officials said at a news conference Thursday, because the city’s health system remains “stable.” Instead, officials stressed the importance of voluntarily wearing masks in indoor public spaces again, as well as vaccination and reinforcement.

“As we head into the summer and long weekend to celebrate Memorial Day, it is important for our city to safely welcome visitors and reassure them, as well as our residents, that we are taking public health measures,” said the Chicago Department of Business and Consumer Protection Commissioner Kenneth Meyer. “As a clinician, I will just reiterate that we are not returning the mask or vaccine requirements because the Chicago health system remains stable. However, since cases are still high, we strongly encourage residents and visitors to wear masks. … I also encourage everyone to get vaccinated. And get booster doses as quickly as possible.”

Eight other counties in Illinois currently record high transmission levels, including neighboring Champaign and Ford County, as well as Rockford, Winnebago, Stephenson and Boone area counties.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Alison Aroudi said the city is “very confident” that hospitalizations are to blame for Cook County, including Chicago, moving to the higher risk for the scale used by the CDC.

The database showed that last week the county was 9.8 new admissions per 100,000 people. When an area gets 10 new weekly admissions per 100,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers it “high risk.”

“The CDC looks at the entire health services district when they look at things like hospitalization,” Arwady said. “With the latest updates, the city of Chicago averages 290 cases per 100,000. Over the past seven days, that’s more than 200 over the target, but you can see Cook County overall at 367.”

The Midwest is now among those with the highest cases of COVID-19 in the country, and Arwady said that’s because the Midwest is doing more testing than the South and also because “we’re getting through this soft variant (of omicron) right away.”

The CDC classifies areas as having low, medium, or high levels of community transmission based on case numbers, hospital admissions, and inpatient bed use.

Arwady recommended people avoid crowded indoor gatherings, get tested if they show any flu or COVID-like symptoms, and develop a precautionary plan for treatment with a primary doctor for immunocompromised people.

The Food and Drug Administration last week approved a booster dose of Pfizer for children ages 5 to 11, although children in that age group generally lag behind when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.

With the number of cases rising, the US Food and Drug Administration is preparing to review data from Moderna and Pfizer’s trials in children 6 months to 5 years old on June 15, a highly anticipated step toward allowing a vaccine for the younger and final age group.

tmijares@chicagotribune.com

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