CHICAGO — Chicagoans should reconsider any travel plans they had for Thanksgiving, the city’s top doctor warned Tuesday.
COVID-19 is surging throughout the United States, and the majority of the country is now on Chicago’s Emergency Travel Order. Chicago’s own outbreak is considered out of control, with new cases doubling every nine days. Hospitalizations and deaths are quickly climbing throughout Illinois.
That means anyone coming to or from Chicago carries a risk of spreading coronavirus, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said at a Tuesday coronavirus update.
“As you’re thinking ahead — perhaps to Thanksgiving — please keep this map in mind,” Arwady said while showing a map of all the states on Chicago’s quarantine list. “Traveling is a concern right now.
“When we are coming from Chicago or from Illinois and traveling out, we are bringing a potential risk of COVID. When people are coming to Chicago from most of the country at this point, they’re bringing an elevated risk of COVID.”
Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 26 this year, meaning it’s less than a month away.
Arwady said she hopes Chicago can regain control of its COVID-19 outbreak before then — but that seems unlikely due to how quickly Chicago is surging. New cases are growing as quickly as they did during the deadly first wave in the spring.
“I am not planning to travel this Thanksgiving unless we see significant improvements in this map,” Arwady said. “And I would encourage you — especially if you normally are getting together with people who are older or have underlying health conditions — to think seriously about whether this is the year for travel.”
Families and friends traditionally gather on Thanksgiving, eating and spending time together. But as with Halloween, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and other holidays this year, gathering has proven dangerous due to the pandemic.
Arwady, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and state officials have urged people to stop gathering in groups and to stop inviting people into their homes. They’ve said most of Chicago’s COVID-19 spread is happening in small groups at home, here people let down their guards and don’t wear masks or keep 6 feet of distance.
Arwady said city officials are especially concerned about college students who tend to travel a lot between their families and schools during Thanksgiving. That creates “the potential for seeing even more surge,” she said.
While city and state officials have urged people not to have holiday gatherings or have people over, Arwady said people should, at the least, wear masks and keep 6 feet of distance if they do invite non-household members into their homes.
And people should be particularly thoughtful about gatherings if any people are more at risk of COVID-19 — like those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions — or if members of their households are more at risk, Arwady said.
“My hope is that a month from now, we’ll be in a better place,” Arwady said. “But that’s not the way the numbers are heading now. And I want to be honest with you about what that risk is looking like.”
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