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Unvaccinated Chicagoans With COVID 15 Times More Likely To Die From Virus Than Fully Vaccinated People, Top Doc Says

Chicago's outbreak could get much worse as the weather cools down — so people should get their shots as soon as possible, Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Faith leaders and families of those lost to COVID-19 join Governor J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton for a memorial service to honor those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Hyde Park on Thursday, September 3, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Unvaccinated Chicagoans who get COVID-19 are about 15 times more likely to die from the virus than people who are fully vaccinated, the city’s top doctor said Tuesday.

Chicago has seen its coronavirus positivity rate and daily new cases start to stabilize — but they’re still higher than they were before the Delta surge, and it’s unvaccinated people who remain the most at risk, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said at a news conference.

Unvaccinated Chicagoans are testing positive for COVID-19 more frequently than vaccinated people, and they are five times more likely to be hospitalized for their coronavirus than fully vaccinated Chicagoans who have a breakthrough case, Arwady said.

The difference is even starker when it comes to deaths: Unvaccinated Chicagoans who get COVID-19 are about 15 times more likely to die from the virus than fully vaccinated people, Arwady said.

The vaccines remain “remarkably protective against hospitalizations and deaths,” Arwady said.

But the doctor warned things could worsen in the near future if more people don’t get their shots. It will take several weeks to determine if Chicago’s metrics are actually flattening and will drop or if they’ll rise again, she said.

“We’re not as vaccinated as we should be against COVID,” Arwady said during a livestream earlier in the day. “And we absolutely are seeing cases of hospital systems being overwhelmed [elsewhere]. … It is not true right now here in Chicago. Downstate, they are starting to really feel that.”

Central and southern Illinois — where fewer people are vaccinated — are facing COVID-19 surges and are starting to see their hospitals fill up. Gov. JB Pritzker warned their health care systems could soon be overwhelmed.

Chicago’s health department has said its health system is “stable” for now.

But Arwady said she’s particularly worried about this fall and winter. Even without Delta, she anticipated another wave of COVID-19 during the chillier seasons, as that often happens with respiratory illnesses, she said.

But she’s especially concerned about how bad another wave could be now because she hadn’t anticipated how bad the Delta surge would be.

“I was not anticipating such a significant surge in the summer in the U.S.,” Arwady said. “I am concerned, for sure, heading into the winter.”

People who aren’t fully vaccinated yet should get their shots as soon as possible, she said.

“There’s the potential for it to get much worse [here], as we’ve seen in the rest of the country,” Arwady said.


• In Illinois, about 6.7 million people — or 52.9 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 39,802 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 13,921,400 vaccine doses of the 16,223,775 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.49 million Chicagoans — or 55.5 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated. About 60.8 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:

• Twenty-six Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Monday.

• At least 23,953 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,547 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 4,871 cases since Monday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,522,942.

• Since Monday, 94,016 tests were reported statewide. In all, 28,869,597 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 5.1 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 5.2 percent Monday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 5.7 percent. It was at 5.7 percent Monday.

• As of Monday night, 537 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 301 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, seven deaths were reported since Monday. There have been at least 5,621 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than three deaths per day, a 35 percent decrease from the week prior.

• Chicago has had 627 confirmed cases reported since Monday. It’s had a total of 303,718 confirmed cases. An average of 467 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 1 percent increase from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has decreased 1 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.3 percent, down from 4.5 percent the week prior.

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