CHICAGO — Chicagoans have to keep wearing masks for the foreseeable future, as the city remains at a high risk from coronavirus, the health commissioner said Tuesday.
A few states have lifted their mask mandates as vaccines increasingly become available, though those changes have been controversial as COVID-19 surges in the United States and across the world.
Chicago is not ready for that, as just a quarter of people are fully vaccinated and new coronavirus cases are on the rise, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘soon’ just yet,” Arwady said. “We’re at a high-risk level [from COVID-19 in Chicago]. Before we’re really thinking about not having masks in public, I want to see a high percentage of Chicagoans vaccinated, and I really want to make sure our numbers are back down in a range where when people are out and about in public the risk of them potentially being exposed to someone with COVID is low.”
Everyone in Illinois has been required to wear a mask or other face covering when in public since April 23, 2020, when the pandemic’s first wave was tearing through the state.
Officials have said the pandemic is nearing its ends thanks to vaccines — but it will still be some time before people can gather and get rid of their masks.
In Chicago, just 25.4 percent of all people have finished their vaccinations. Among people who are 65 and older — who are generally the most at risk from COVID-19 — about 51.8 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
The city has opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older.
Officials are rushing to vaccinate people as quickly as possible as COVID-19 surges in the city. New cases, hospitalization’s and Chicago’s positivity rate were on the rise for weeks, though that growth has slowed recently.
The city is seeing an average of five deaths per day from COVID-19, a slight increase from an average of four deaths per day a week prior.
An average of 657 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 6 percent decrease from the previous week. At the same time, testing is unchanged since a week ago.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 the week before.
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