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Yes, We’re Seeing A Rise In Coronavirus Cases In Illinois — But Don’t Panic, City’s Top Doctor Says

Dr. Allison Arwady predicted Chicago will soon have a day where no one dies from coronavirus. It's been "a long time" since that happened, she said.

The COVID-19 Testing Center at Innovative Express Care in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Illinois has seen an increase in coronavirus cases, the city’s top doctor said Friday, but Chicago is still doing well in its fight against the pandemic.

The state has recently seen an uptick in the average number of new cases per day — the rise coming at the same time as other states are facing far more dramatic surges in coronavirus cases. Other states have even had to step back in their reopening plans due to the spikes.

On Friday, the state reported 1,317 new coronavirus cases, the third day in a row it reported a significant uptick. In all, there have been 151,767 cases across Illinois.

Another 25 people also died in Illinois during the last day, bringing the death toll to 7,144.

But Chicago is doing well and its numbers of new cases and deaths per day are still down, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Friday call with reporters.

“Obviously all around us we are seeing significant increases in terms of new COVID-19 cases,” Arwady said. But, she noted at another point, “By and large, feeling relatively good about where we are in Chicago,” especially compared to nearby places.

Chicago’s average number of new cases has fallen to 171 per day. The city’s also down to an average of five coronavirus-related deaths per day.

Arwady predicted Chicago will have a day without a coronavirus-related death within the next week or two. It’s been “a long time” since that happened, she said.

And the city’s percent positivity was 4.8 percent as of Friday, Arwady said. That measures the percent of people who tested positive for coronavirus — and there are parts around Illinois, and many places around the country, that are “now well in excess” of 5 percent, Arwady said.

“Broadly, where you look at our numbers across compared to any other sort of city or county or state across the country, we are definitely flat and not increasing in terms of overall these indicators,” Arwady said. “Deaths … have fallen very, very nicely and continue to do so. And percent positivity came down very well.”

The city is also “very, very far below any concerning point” in terms of hospital capacity, Arwady said. COVID-19-related hospitalizations are at their lowest level since March and are declining still, she said.

Keeping hospital beds open and not overwhelming the city’s health care system has been a priority for officials.

City officials are watching the metrics every day, Arwady said; for example, there was a “little bit” of an increase in new cases last week, but that number has already fallen.

Small changes like that won’t trigger Chicago having to take a step back in reopening, Arwady said.

How the city will determine to take steps back — if it does — would depend on what metric is changing and how fast it’s changing.

For example, if the average number of new cases climbs back over 200 per day — meaning Chicago would be back in a high-risk state — the city would increase coronavirus education for residents, but it wouldn’t necessarily take a step back, Arwady said.

“I am absolutely happy to tolerate slight changes, slight increases,” Arwady said.

But the city would be “very quick to act” if there’s an impact to the health care system, Arwady said.

The doctor did note a concern: Chicago is seeing an increasing number of young people test positive for coronavirus, which could lead to more elderly people getting COVID-19.

The group with the highest number of confirmed cases and the highest percent positivity in the city is now people aged 18-29, who have a positivity of 6 percent, Arwady said.

That’s partly because the city is doing a lot of testing in people that age, Arwady said, and also because the city is “doing a very nice job of controlling the cases” in people who are older and more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

“But one of the concerns is, of course, younger individuals are perfectly capable of transmitting” the virus to older people, Arwady said.

People should continue to practice safety measures to keep Chicago’s outbreak under control, Arwady said. She’s long encouraged Chicagoans to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands.

“The biggest predictor of our longterm success is whether people continue to practice the behaviors that we know work,” Arwady said.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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