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COVID-19 Poses ‘Medium’ Risk Across Chicago, Cook County: Federal Health Officials

Friday, May 06, 2022
WTTW News
by Heather Cherone

All residents of Cook County — including those in Chicago — now face a “medium” risk of contracting COVID-19 and should wear a mask indoors, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Cook County now has a case rate of more than 259 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, meeting the threshold set by federal health officials to warn residents that the risk of contracting COVID-19 has risen from “low” to “medium.” The trigger to move from low to medium is recording more than 200 cases of confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, according to federal health guidelines.

Residents of eight northeast Illinois counties — McHenry, Lake, DeKalb, Cook, Kendall, DuPage, Will and Kane — face a medium level of COVID-19 risk, according to the CDC.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Chicagoans should consider the CDC’s medium level of risk warning as “a yellow light of caution.”

“It is not a reason to panic,” Arwady said during an online question-and-answer session on April 28 that focused on the rising number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. “It is not a reason that people cannot go to work, cannot go to school, cannot take the [CTA].”

All Chicagoans should ensure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and wear a mask in indoor settings where they are not certain if those around them have been vaccinated, including on CTA buses and trains, Arwady said.

Chicago Public Schools officials “will continue to strongly encourage masks in schools, but not require them” even as Chicago and Cook County residents now face a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than at any time since the surge of cases driven by the omicron variant of the virus faded in February, prompting officials to lift measures designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Those likely to get seriously sick from COVID-19 should talk to their doctor about whether to wear a mask and other precautions, Arwady said.

Those at high risk for severe illness from a COVID-19 infection include those older than 50, those with underlying medical conditions and the immunocompromised, health officials said.

While the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been rising in Chicago since March 8 — approximately a week after city and state officials lifted the mask mandate and vaccine requirement for some businesses — the number of people in Chicago hospitals with COVID-19 remain near all-time lows.

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 has never been lower, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Since April 3, 14 people have died from the virus, according to city data.

That is due to the efficacy of the vaccines, Arwady said.

Federal health officials would consider the risk of contracting COVID-19 “high” in a county where the hospitals and health system were beginning to be strained by the number of those ill with the virus, according to guidelines that have been in place since Feb. 28.

That strain is measured by the number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 residents during a seven-day period and the percent of staffed hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients on average during the past seven days.

Cook County’s COVID-19 hospital admission rate is 6.9, according to the CDC. If that hospitalization rate rises to 10 or greater, the risk level would rise to “high,” according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, 2.2% of staffed hospital beds in Cook County are in use by COVID-19 patients on average during the past seven days. If 10% of staffed hospital beds in Cook County are in use by COVID-19 patients on average during the past seven days, the risk level would rise to “high,” according to the CDC.

City officials will not require Chicagoans to wear masks indoors or require businesses to ask for proof of vaccination until the risk of COVID-19 in Cook County is considered high by the CDC, Arwady said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | hcherone@wttw.com



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