CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is “ringing the alarm bells” over Chicago’s quick rise in new coronavirus cases and its positivity rate.
The city had been gradually reopening — but it’s stalled those plans for now, with officials saying they’re concerned about a possible third surge of COVID-19 coming. Instead, the city has loosened its restrictions on outdoor activities, hoping that will move people to take their activities outside, where the virus is less likely to spread.
“The bottom line here is we’re seeing a very disturbing trend that could significantly impact our ability to move forward with reopening,” Lightfoot said during a Thursday call with reporters. Later, she said, “The last thing in the world that we want to do is shut everything back down” like in Europe.
The increase in new cases is being seen among people in the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups, and it’s particularly evident in the Lincoln Park, Old Town and Portage Park neighborhoods, Lightfoot said. The city will target its messages at that group in hopes of preventing a third surge.
Chicago has seen a 23 percent rise in daily new cases compared to a week ago — and the uptick resembles what the city saw in the fall as the second COVID-19 surge began, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.
Over that week, testing has only risen by 6 percent, meaning the rise in new cases can’t be attributed solely to testing.
Gov. JB Pritzker has expressed similar concerns about upticks across the state.
“I’ve been to this movie before and seen the rising positivity rates, and I’m concerned about it,” Pritzker said at a Wednesday news conference.
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.
Lightfoot said she will bring back tighter restrictions if the rise continues.
Another 35 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day. The most recent victims included 10 people from Cook County.
At least 21,171 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,271 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
The state reported 2,190 confirmed cases over the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,229,898.
Pritzker announced last week 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.
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.
Across Illinois, an average of 101,175 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 4,790,764 vaccine doses of the 6,091,965 directly provided to them.
More than 979,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans, and 1,149,036 doses have been administered in the city overall.
Another 364,144 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 5,154,908 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois out of 6,506,865 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.
The state is peeling back some of its coronavirus safety restrictions as regions get their outbreaks more under control. Chicago is in Phase 4.
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 fell slightly to 2.7 percent Thursday with 90,101 tests reported. It was at 2.8 percent Wednesday. 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, rose to 3.2 percent Thursday. It was at 3.1 percent Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, 1,251 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 267 people in the ICU and 119 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, three deaths and 437 confirmed cases were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,003 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 253,323 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 365 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 23 percent increase from the previous week. At the same time, testing has risen by 3 percent since a week ago.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 3.4 percent, up from 2.9 percent the week before.
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