'I'm concerned': Chicago could soon reach 'high' COVID level, city's top doc says

The Chicago area could soon move into the "high" level of COVID-19 transmission, according to a new warning Tuesday from city health officials.

The Department of Public Health said that while the county, including Chicago, remains in the "medium community level", that could change soon based on case counts and hospitalizations.

"Obviously I’m concerned that Cook County is getting closer to a high COVID-19 level and I strongly urge everyone to take this seriously and protect yourself and others," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. "Cases are still going up in Chicago, but at this point our city’s hospital and health care settings are far from being overwhelmed, mostly thanks to vaccines and boosters."

The city’s test positivity rate rose from 4.9% last week to 6.2% this week, while the new daily case average rose from 922 last week to 1,172 this week, data showed.


Arwady said Chicago would not necessarily see an immediate return of mask mandates until hospitalizations begin to rise significantly.

"If our Chicago hospital capacity started to be stretched, that’s the point where we’d consider reinstituting local mask mandates. We make decisions about citywide public health requirements based on data, and thankfully right now, our hospital system is still in a very good place," Arwady said.

Currently, Chicago is seeing 4.9 new hospitalizations per 100,000 people each week and less than four percent of hospital beds occupied by patients.

Arwady said twice as many Chicagoans would need to be hospitalized for the city to consider reinstating the indoor mask mandate.

With subtypes of omicron now spreading, the U.S. is averaging about 91,000 cases reported a day, compared to about 57,000 just two weeks ago. That’s a small fraction of the infections seen during the brutal winter surge — but experts also say it’s a vast undercount as testing has dropped and at-home tests often aren’t reported.

The federal government is now offering a third round of free COVID-19 at home tests for every home in the United States.

Each order now includes eight rapid antigen COVID-19 tests that will come in two separate packages. Individuals can order at covid.gov/tests or by calling 1-800-232-0233.