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Chicago’s COVID ‘Not Moving In The Direction We Would Like’ As Cases Rise — But There’s No Cause For Alarm, Top Doc Says

"The news here in Chicago continues to be relatively good from a COVID perspective," Dr. Allison Arwady said. Chicago's daily new cases and positivity rate have risen.

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination site in the Jones Convocation Center on the campus of Chicago State University on April 7, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Coronavirus cases are once again on the rise in Chicago and across the nation, the city’s top doctor said Thursday — but she said locals don’t need to be alarmed.

New cases of COVID-19 have gone up in recent weeks, but the surge hasn’t been nearly as significant in Chicago as in less-vaccinated places, said Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health. COVID deaths remain at an all-time low during the pandemic, with an average of one per day.

“The news here in Chicago continues to be relatively good from a COVID perspective,” Arwady sad during a Thursday livestream. The city is seeing an average of 57 confirmed cases per day, which is “beautiful compared to where we were for most of 16 months. … But 57 is up from 30-something just a week or two ago. And we are seeing these increases.”

Cases are going up in 46 out of 50 states, and that’ll likely jump to all 50 soon, Arwady said. Chicago added Arkansas and Missouri to its travel advisory on Tuesday, and officials warned it’s likely other states will be added to the list in coming weeks.

The surge is being fueled by the more-contagious Delta variant, which has run rampant in less-vaccinated communities. Chicago overall has about 51 percent of its residents vaccinated, but Arwady has said there are some neighborhoods with a far lower rate of getting the shots, and she’s worried about potential surges there.

“I do expect it will probably continue to increase — hopefully slowly, hopefully staying in control,” Arwady said. “But it’s why we’re working on vaccinations so hard.”

Illinois is among the states seeing a surge, though the biggest spikes have been in downstate counties close to the Missouri border, which tend to be less vaccinated, Arwady said.

“Illinois is not having an enormous surge by any means,” Arwady said, as the state is seeing an average of two new cases per 100,000 people per day. “But when you start to get up there, the risk does go from kind of a moderate to a higher risk for people who are unvaccinated.”

People shouldn’t be alarmed, but “the risk is ever so slightly higher than it was a week ago,” Arwady said. She said the risk to fully vaccinated people is still “very, very low,” though it’s only “low to moderate” for people who haven’t gotten all their shots.

People can get protected by getting fully vaccinated, Arwady said. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot in a two-dose vaccine, like Pfizer and Moderna, or two weeks after the only shot of a one-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson.

Officials have closed down mass vaccination sites and tried to ramp up vaccinations directly in neighborhoods, hoping that bringing the shots to people will boost Chicago’s slumping vaccine numbers. The number of vaccinations done daily has gone slightly up lately: An average of 4,130 are being done per day in Chicago as of Thursday.

Still, more than two-thirds of Chicago’s cases over the past month were in people younger than 40, who tend to be less vaccinated than older people, Arwady said. And nearly one-third of cases that led to a person being hospitalized were in people younger than 40.

Daily new cases are highest among Chicagoans 0-39 years old, Arwady said.

“Things are moving not in the direction we would like, but they’re moving slowly,” Arwady said.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 6.3 million people of all ages — or 49.69 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 21,813 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 12,895,755 vaccine doses of the 14,402,695 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.37 million Chicagoans — or 51 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 57 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Seven Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Wednesday.

• At least 23,350 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,461 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 861 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,399,270.

• Since Wednesday, 41,166 tests were reported statewide. In all, 26,259,477 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 1.9 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 1.8 percent Wednesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 2.3 percent. It was at 2.2 percent Wednesday.

• As of Wednesday night, 110 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 35 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, one deaths was reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,488 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of one death per day, a 17 percent increase from the week prior.

• Chicago has had 114 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 286,902 confirmed cases. An average of 57 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 42 percent increase from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has decreased 4 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 1.2 percent, up from .8 percent the week prior.

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