COVID-19 ‘Surging Again’ Across the Country: Chicago’s Top Doc

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

A surge of COVID-19 fueled by holiday gatherings and indoor events has yet to abate, even as Christmas approaches, Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday.

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Even as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has yet to become the dominant variant in the United States, cases of the delta variant are still spreading fast, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“The country is surging again,” Arwady said during an online question-and-answer session.

Data from Chicago health officials show that confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been rising in Chicago since Oct. 25, once the weather turned colder, sending people indoors. Cases are also likely to rise after families and friends gathered for Thanksgiving, Arwady said.

The highest rates of confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in the Midwest, according to CDPH data.

Arwady urged all Chicagoans older than 5 to get vaccinated, and for those older than 18 to get a booster dose of the vaccine as soon as they are eligible. Everyone should also wear a mask while indoors in a public space, she added.

Chicago officials added California and Mississippi to the city’s COVID-19 travel advisory on Tuesday.

That advisory now covers 42 states, all of which are outside the South, Arwady said.

Unvaccinated visitors to Chicago from those states are urged to quarantine for 10 days or record a negative test for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their arrival, officials said.

In addition, unvaccinated travelers should get tested three to five days before they leave on their trip as well as three to five days after they return, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Even if they test negative, they should self-quarantine for seven days. Those who don’t take a test should quarantine for 10 days after travel, according to the new guidance.

Unvaccinated travelers should avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, even with a negative test, according to the new guidance.

The city’s travel order, first implemented in July 2020, did not include any states as of June 1 as vaccination efforts tamped down cases and spurred reopenings across the United States. On June 29, officials announced the order would become an advisory as COVID-19 cases remained low across the nation. The delta variant stopped that progress.

States and territories that average more than 15 cases of COVID-19 per day per 100,000 residents are covered by the travel advisory, Chicago officials said.

Chicago is averaging 33.4 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. Illinois is averaging 56 cases per day, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health. The national case rate is 35.2, officials said.

 The city’s test positivity rate is 4.2%, up from 4% a week ago.

No one was cited for violating the travel order, which could have triggered fines of $100 to $500 per day for a maximum fine of $7,000, according to the mayor’s office. 

City officials said the advisory is designed to be part of a COVID-19 education campaign.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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