COVID-19 Surge is ‘Merciless’ Top Doc Says, Urging Chicagoans to Avoid Unnecessary Travel

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

All Chicagoans — including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 — should only travel outside of Illinois if their trip is essential, Chicago’s top doctor said Wednesday, as officials expanded the city’s advisory designed to stop the spread of the still-surging virus.

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“COVID is very real, it’s merciless, and unless you are fully vaccinated, your defenses against it are pretty low,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “Unvaccinated and vaccinated travelers alike should consider if their travel plans are necessary at this time.”  

Only those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are likely to avoid serious illness, Arwady said.

“The evidence is overwhelming — if you are fully vaccinated and you do get COVID-19, there’s very little chance you will get so ill that you require hospitalization,” Arwady said. “Your chances aren’t nearly as good if you remain unvaccinated.”

In all, the advisory covers 49 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, according to an announcement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. All are recording at least 15 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 residents.

The last time the city’s travel advisory included all states was early September, at the height of the first surge of COVID-19 driven by the delta variant. Now, a majority of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country are being caused by the omicron variant, officials said.

Unvaccinated visitors to Chicago from all 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 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even if they test negative for COVID-19, they should self-quarantine for seven days. Those who don’t take a test should quarantine for 10 days after travel, according to the rules.

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 rules.

Chicago is averaging 176.4 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Illinois is averaging 182.1 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, while the national case rate is 148.1, according to city data.

An average of 4,775 Chicagoans have been diagnosed each day with the coronavirus during the past week, a 12% increase from the previous week, according to Chicago Department of Public Health data.

The city’s test positivity rate is 23.3%, up from 14.3% the previous week, while the number of tests dropped 34%, according to city data.  

Daily hospitalizations rose 22% in the past seven days, and 64.7% of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data. 

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

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