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Coronavirus Cases, Positivity Rise In Chicago: ‘We Are Worried About This,’ Top Doc Says

The average number of confirmed COVID-19 cases being reported per day in Chicago has risen by 23 percent since a week ago.

Dr. Allison Arwady in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood on Feb. 19, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city’s top doctor said officials are “worried” as Chicago’s number of new coronavirus cases and positivity rate have risen in recent days.

The average number of confirmed cases being reported per day in Chicago is up to 350 as of Tuesday — a 23 percent increase from the week before, when an average of 285 cases were being reported.

Chicago’s positivity rate has risen from 2.9 percent a week ago to 3.2 percent Tuesday, which Arwady said is also concerning.

The rise resembles what Chicago saw in the fall as the city’s second COVID-19 surge began, Arwady said.

“I will tell you, we are worried about this,” Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a livestream Tuesday morning.

Over that week, testing has only risen by 6 percent, meaning the rise in new cases can’t be attributed solely to testing.

“This is a true increase, and the concern is that we’ve been sitting pretty comfortably under an average of 300 cases per day,” Arwady said. “Here in Chicago … to get down to a lower-risk state — not even a controlled state, just a lower-risk state — we need to be averaging under 200 new cases per day. And for us, being over 400 new cases per day is a real sign of concern.”

Later in the day, Arwady said she is “more optimistic” the city can avoid another wave of COVID-19 because people in their 70s and 80s are staying home and getting vaccinated, so their age groups have not yet seen rises in case rates. She hopes the recent rise in younger people does not mean Chicago is in the beginning of a third surge.

“I certainly hope not. I am concerned, and I hope everybody is concerned when they look at this data,” she said.

Officials warned Monday the city was seeing an uptick in cases, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot saying the rise is being seen among people in the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups. Lightfoot said the city will bring back tighter coronavirus safety restrictions if there’s another surge.

“COVID-19 is still here, folks. It is still real. It is still deadly,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Monday. “And, unfortunately, it is still sending people to the hospital very single day.

“We will step back and have to close back down if we are not diligent, particularly that 18-to-40-year-old cohort. It’s critically important that those folks and everyone remain diligent.”

Another coronavirus surge is being seen around the world, with countries in Europe going on lockdown. Officials in Chicago and Illinois have said they remain optimistic, though, as the vaccine rollout is underway.

Statewide, another 13 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day. The most recent victims included 10 people from Cook County.

At least 21,116 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,275 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

“Even as we’re getting more and more vaccine doses, we cannot let our guard down, especially with these virulent new strains circulating,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement Tuesday. “We’ve come so far and are so close to a more normal time, but we’re already seeing some concerning plateaus and even increases in hospitalizations and cases. We’re not out of the woods yet so continue to wear your masks, avoid large crowds, and keep six feet of distance.”

The state reported 1,832 confirmed cases over the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,224,915.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday all Illinoisans 16 and older will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 12 as more doses are coming into the state. He also detailed how the state will reopen in coming weeks — as long as more people are vaccinated and COVID-19 cases and deaths don’t surge.

“It’s time to begin to cautiously move to normalcy, and it’s imperative that we do so in a way that maintains all of the progress that we’ve made to date,” he said at a news conference. Later, he said, “Folks, this is an exciting day. Although we still are in the midsts of a global pandemic, the end seems truly to be in sight.”

More doses are coming to the city, too. April and May will be especially big for vaccinations, Arwady said last week. The city start 1C vaccinations on March 29.

RELATED: A Year Of Loss: COVID-19 Has Killed More Than 4,500 Chicagoans. For These Families, Life Will Never Be The Same

Across Illinois, an average of 91,000 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 4,454,862 vaccine doses of the 5,796,305 directly provided to them.

More than 911,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans, and 1,080,644 doses have been administered in the city overall.

Another 363,235 vaccines have been administered in long-term care facilities, which have been provided with 414,900 doses. Those vaccinations are done through a federal partnership with pharmacy chains.

All together, at least 4,818,097 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois out of 6,211,205 doses provided to state entities.

Arwady previously said she’s pushing for the state to send more doses to Chicago and the surrounding area since 35-40 percent of the city’s doses have gone to non-residents. She said rural areas in the state are currently more vaccinated than parts of Chicago.

In comparison, about 21 percent of Chicago residents who have been vaccinated got their shot outside the city.

Illinois and Chicago are vaccinating people 65 and older and frontline workers as part of Phase 1B of the vaccination campaign. Illinoisans who are eligible are able to make appointments to get vaccinated at pharmacies, their health provider’s office, state-run mass vaccination sites and other places.

The state is also vaccinating people with underlying conditions or disabilities, as well as people who work in higher education, government and media.

RELATED: Here’s How You Can Get Vaccinated Against Coronavirus In Chicago

The number of new cases being reported in Chicago fell from its fall peak — but now it’s stalled, with some numbers rising, and the city is still not considered low risk, Arwady said.

Still, the state is peeling back some of its coronavirus safety restrictions as regions get their outbreaks more under control. Chicago is now in Phase 4, the phase when the state’s restrictions are at their most relaxed before a full return to normalcy.

The city has released a roadmap detailing what metrics it will use to lift restrictions from businesses as it gets better control of its COVID-19 outbreak.

People are still at risk and will have to continue taking precautions for much of 2021, officials have said. People should keep wearing a mask, staying socially distant, washing their hands frequently, not gathering, not traveling and not having people into their home, experts have said.

“If you’re gonna be out, please just wear the mask, keep practicing caution,” Arwady said earlier this month. “The risk gets lower with every additional person who gets vaccinated.”

Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate fell slightly to 2.5 percent Tuesday with 49,739 tests reported. It was at 2.6 percent Monday. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.

Illinois’ seven-day test positivity, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, held at 2.9 percent Tuesday.

As of Monday night, 1,270 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 272 people in the ICU and 117 people using ventilators.

In Chicago, nine deaths and 288 confirmed cases were reported since Monday. There have been at least 4,997 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 252,363 confirmed cases, according to state data.

The city is seeing an average of four deaths per day, unchanged from the week prior. That’s the lowest that figure has been in months, Arwady previously said. During the peak of the second, fall surge in the pandemic, nearly 25 people per day were being killed by COVID-19; during the peak of the first surge in the spring, nearly 50 people were killed per day.

An average of 350 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 23 percent increase from the previous week. At the same time, testing has risen by 6 percent since a week ago.

The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 3.2 percent, up from 2.9 percent the week before.

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