Chicago rises back up to ‘medium’ COVID-19 risk level
CHICAGO - COVID-19 transmission has risen to a medium risk level across the Chicago area, as temperatures drop and cases rise once again, health officials said Friday.
Cook County and the collars had been in the "low" transmission category for more than a month as determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but steady upticks in cases and hospitalizations now mean the elderly and immunocompromised are advised to mask up around others indoors.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said it highlights the need for more residents to get the latest COVID booster shot, which is specially designed to target the latest strains of the virus.
"With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and the expected rise in winter-related respiratory virus circulation, I urge all Chicagoans to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and get their flu shot now," Arwady said in a statement.
"Families will be traveling and gathering indoors for the holidays, and I worry about that increased circulation of COVID-19 and flu, and especially the possibility of severe outcomes for those who remain unvaccinated or not up to date."
Everyone age 5 or older is urged to get the latest booster. Only 13% of eligible Chicagoans have done so.
"For most Chicagoans, if you haven’t had a COVID vaccine since Labor Day, you’re not up to date and not protected enough against COVID heading into winter," Arwady said. "It doesn’t matter if you have already had boosters. This is a different vaccine, and it offers better protection against current and future virus strains."
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Along with Cook County, McHenry, Lake, DuPage, Will and Grundy counties are up to the "medium" level. Kendall and Kane remain at the "low" level.
Besides rolling up a sleeve, officials say it’s a good idea for everyone in medium-risk counties to mask up in indoor settings where you’re not sure of others’ vaccination status.
The state has recorded an average of 1,926 new cases per day over the past week, marking a 24% increase since last month. That doesn’t include at-home tests.
More than 1,100 COVID patients were hospitalized statewide as of Wednesday night, a 15% jump compared to last month.
Fatal cases have remained relatively flat, with the state losing an average of eight lives to the virus per day. Illinois’ pandemic death toll stands at 35,327.
Boosters are free and widely available at pharmacies. The city is also hosting a free vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.
For more help finding a shot, visit vaccines.gov.