A traveler walks outside O'Hare Airport on Nov. 25. Credit: Catherine Bauer/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Travel and gatherings on Thanksgiving continued despite warnings from public health officials — and the city is starting to see another increase in new coronavirus cases, Chicago’s top doctor said Wednesday.

An average of 1,654 confirmed cases are being reported per day in the city, an 11 percent increase from the prior week, according to public health data. Chicago’s seven-day positivity rate is at 13.3 percent, up from 11.4 percent the week before.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said there was some progress being made on slowing the virus ahead of the holiday, but “unfortunately, just after Thanksgiving, we started to see those cases rise again.”

“Now is the time, if you’ve let up, to get even more serious,” Arwady said. “We saw a lot of testing happening in the week particularly leading up to Thanksgiving. Some of that was because people had been exposed to COVID, and we had a lot of people with symptoms. But we know there were people being tested because they were perhaps planning to travel or planning to gather.”

Another bad sign: “Deaths also have not yet peaked here in Chicago,” Arwady said.

The city is seeing 17-18 Chicagoans die of the virus per day, with 17 reported dead from COVID-19 since Tuesday.

Arwady’s comments come as state and city officials urge people to avoid large gatherings over the coming holidays to avoid another surge. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Illinois Department of Public Health Director, said earlier this month these sacrifices are hard — but necessary.

“Let’s not make this holiday season anyone’s last holiday season,” Ezike said. “Let’s stay the course and fight for everyone’s life.

“… Let’s make the holidays less harrowing, not just for the people who might end up sick and in the hospital with COVID or non-COVID illnesses, but also for the staff that will tend to all those COVID as well as non-COVID patients. … We’ve already lost too many lives. Yes, we’ve lost our normalcy, but we shouldn’t lose hope.”

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