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Chicago’s Reopening Paused As City Sees ‘Quantum Leap’ In COVID Cases, Lightfoot Says

Chicago is seeing an average of 498 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day — a 69 percent increase since the start of the month.

A mass vaccination site for union workers in Chicago.
Heidi Zeiger/Chicago Mayor's Office
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CHICAGO — The city has seen a “quantum leap” in cases since a month ago — meaning Chicago has to puts reopening plans on pause, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.

On March 1, the city was seeing an average of 295 confirmed cases per day. But as of Wednesday, an average of 498 confirmed cases are being reported each day — a 68.8 percent increase since the start of the month. Just since a week ago, daily new cases are up 37 percent.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Illinois and Chicago’s positivity rate are also rising. Deaths remain low, with an average of four per day in Chicago; but officials have previously said those losses lag behind other figures.

State and city officials have said they’re deeply worried a third surge of COVID-19 is forming. The uptick in resembles what was seen before the second wave in the fall — meaning a third surge could be on the way, they’ve said.

“We have over 400, almost 500 cases on average as of today,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday. “That’s a quantum leap from where we were even three weeks ago. That is concerning.”

Chicagoans won’t see “anything more significant in the reopening front” until the number of new cases stabilizes and falls, Lightfoot said.

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Chicago is instead loosening restrictions on outdoor activities in a bid to get people to spend more time outside, where it’s harder for the virus to spread. Lightfoot previously said she will bring back tighter restrictions if the rise in cases continues.

Reopening is also stalled on a statewide level. Though 70 percent of Illinoisans 65 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the rising number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 means the state can’t move into its “Bridge Phase.”

“I’ve been to this movie before and seen the rising positivity rates, and I’m concerned about it,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a news conference last week.

Officials do have hope a third wave can still be averted. They’ve said people should keep taking steps to protect themselves and others, like wearing a mask and staying socially distant.

The rise in new cases is being seen among people 18-29 and 30-39, particularly in the Lincoln Park, Old Town and Portage Park neighborhoods. Older people, who have had greater access to vaccines so far and who are most at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, are not seeing significant upticks. The city is targeting its warnings at younger people.

Another 28 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day. The most recent Illinois victims included 20 people from Cook County.

At least 21,301 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,278 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

The state reported 2,592 confirmed cases over the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,244,585.

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 109,358 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 5,434,089 vaccine doses of the 6,658,805 directly provided to them.

About 1,135,834 million doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans, and 1,310,822 doses have been administered in the city overall.

Another 367,782 vaccines have been administered in long-term care facilities, which have been provided with 448,830 doses. Those vaccinations are done through a federal partnership with pharmacy chains.

All together, at least 5,801,871 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois out of 7,397,635 doses provided to state entities.

All Illinoisans 16 and older will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 12 as more doses are coming into the state. Pritzker 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. Chicago is doing 1C vaccinations, which includes people 16 and older with qualifying underlying conditions and essential workers.

People are still at risk from COVID-19 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.

Illinois’ seven-day positivity fell slightly to 3.3 percent Wednesday with 77,727 tests reported. It was at 3.4 percent Tuesday. 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 3.9 percent Wednesday.

As of Tuesday night, 1,413 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 294 people in the ICU and 123 people using ventilators.

In Chicago, three deaths and 554 confirmed cases were reported since Tuesday. There have been at least 5,027 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 256,797 confirmed cases, according to state data.

The city is seeing an average of three deaths per day, down from an average of four per day 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 498 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 37 percent increase from the previous week. At the same time, testing has fallen by 4 percent since a week ago.

The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 4.5 percent, up from 3.3 percent the week before.

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