Chicago COVID cases increasing, but top doc says city should ‘be able to evade a very large surge’

Two weeks after Illinois’ COVID-19 numbers started moving in the wrong direction, the state on Tuesday reported its largest daily case count in almost a month.

While the 1,798 new infections logged by the Illinois Department of Public Health were the most in a day since March 11, the coronavirus rebound has been even more pronounced in Chicago. Average daily cases are up 33% in the city compared to last week, with about 284 people testing positive each day.

Cases have been on an incline since March 21, but it’s still "nothing alarming at this point," Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said of the mini-spike that’s being driven by the BA.2 subvariant.


"I’m thinking it’s going to be probably more like what we saw, you know, during Alpha and during Delta, as opposed to this really out-of-control [surge] that we saw during Omicron" in early January, Arwady said during an online Q&A.

The city’s top doctor said there was "nothing unexpected" about the increase, as the more infectious subvariant of Omicron becomes dominant nationwide — and as more people take off their masks. Gov. J.B. Pritzker lifted his statewide indoor mask mandate Feb. 28.

"We expect to see this gradual increase continue for the near future but we’re not seeing signs of a major surge," Arwady said, pointing to the city’s seven-day average positivity rate of 1.6%. It’s up from 1.2% last week, a modest increase in line with the upticks seen in Northeast states that have typically shown signs of a surge before reaching the Midwest — and nowhere near the double-digit spikes currently hitting parts of Europe.

"[It’s] certainly something we’ll keep watching, but with each passing day, I feel more confident that we will be able to evade a very large surge right now," Arwady said.

Severe cases remain low, but those metrics typically trail case increases by a few weeks. Illinois hospitals were treating 546 coronavirus patients Monday night, the most since March 21, but still about 93% lower than the apex of the pandemic earlier this year. The state has averaged 12 COVID deaths per day over the past week, down from 13 the previous week.

Hospitalizations and deaths remain near pandemic lows in the city, averaging about eight new hospital admissions and less than one death per day.

Arwady said she is concerned about lagging vaccination rates in Chicago’s Black community. Only about 62% of Black Chicagoans have gotten a shot, compared to 85% of Asian and Asian-American residents and roughly 76% each of Latinx residents and white residents.

"These are our best protection against serious outcomes, such as hospitalization or death," Arwady said.

Nationwide studies have shown unvaccinated people are 21 times more likely to die of COVID compared to fully vaccinated and boosted people.

For help finding a shot, visit or call the city’s COVID-19 hotline at 312-746-4835.