COVID-19 in Chicago: Looking back a year after pandemic hit

Chicago's COVID positivity rate is now at 2.4 percent.

A year ago, we did not even know what a positivity rate was and regular briefings on COVID-19 were not a daily occurrence.

But what have we lost during this year, what have we accomplished and what does the future hold? FOX 32’s Sylvia Perez sat down with health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady to get her perspective.


These are the scenes etched in our minds from March 2020: restaurants closed, events cancelled, streets and offices empty -- all after Governor JB Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order. No one could have imagined that it would be one year later before we start climbing out of the worst global pandemic in modern history.

"We are coming up on 5,000 deaths here in Chicago. We are not there yet but you think about how many people that is and the indirect impact that we've seen and frankly there were a lot of things that could have been done better," Dr. Arwady said.

The first death in Illinois was March 16th, with COVID taking the life of retired nurse Patricia Freison. Nine days later, her 61-year-old sister Bailey also died from the virus.

Soon after, it is revealed the virus is hitting Black and brown communities hardest. It becomes a focus for Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Arwady.

"We've started to hit some of those equity goals that we had. Last week and again this week, more than half of our vaccines are going to Black and LatinX residents. We know those communities have been hit harder by COVID and so I feel good about the way that we're going," Arwady said.

Arwady says right now about 1 in 9 Chicagoans have been vaccinated. Like everyone else, she is frustrated with the lack of supply, but believes that will soon change.

"It's not going to be very long from now. I think probably within the next couple of months, we're going to see this switch, where it's not going to be so hard to get a vaccine," she said.

Arwady credits the drop in positivity rate partially to vaccinations and people continuing to mask and social distance.

"We are planning and hoping for a summer that is certainly more open than last summer I don't think by summer we will be able to throw the barn doors open and say let's completely go back," Arwady said. "I think summer is gong to look better certainly than last summer and I think especially when we start talking about fall and winter, that's where I'm very hopeful, that if we don't get any more surprises."

"I'm feeling pretty confident that by the end of the year, we will be putting these major impacts of COVID very much behind us," she added.

When asked about this year's Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city, Dr. Arwady said we are not ready for crowds yet, but the city is currently in talks to have a "muted" celebration.