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Chicago Might Require Vaccination Proof At More Spots As City Hit By ‘Winter Surge’ Of COVID-19

Chicago cases have surged in the past month. Officials expect to detect the Omicron variant, which is thought to be highly contagious, within the next day or two.

More venues are requiring proof of vaccination to get into shows.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city is seeing a “very significant” increase in COVID-19 cases, Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday.

Chicago — and the rest of Illinois — are still doing the best in the Midwest when it comes to new cases being reported, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Tuesday livestream. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have the highest COVID-19 rates in the United States, with “a lot of COVID” being seen there, Arwady said.

But Chicago’s outbreak is quickly worsening, and the city’s now considered “very high” risk for transmission when it comes to new cases per day.

“The risk is higher right now,” Arwady said.

Cases have risen sharply in Chicago as the weather has cooled, people have spent more time indoors and after large gatherings for Thanksgiving. The city is reporting an average of 828 confirmed cases per day as of Tuesday — up 50 percent since a week ago and up more than 181 percent since the start of November. On Nov. 1, an average of 294 cases were being reported per day.

That’s the highest average case rate in Chicago since January, when the city was coming down from that winter’s surge.

Chicago’s positivity rate is also up to 4.1 percent; a week ago, it was at 3.2 percent. On Nov. 1, it was at 1.6 percent.

It’s possible the city will start requiring people to show proof of vaccination for more public activities in a bid to slow the virus’s spread, Arwady said.

Other major cities have required residents to show proof of vaccination to go to venues, gyms, bars and restaurants, for example. Arwady said she’d be more interested in those kinds of measures than in “major shutdowns” like were seen at the start of the pandemic.

“It’s certainly something that, as this increase is continuing and with a new variant, we may do more of,” she said.

That surge is even without the confirmed presence of the Omicron variant, which is thought to be highly contagious.

“This is, again, the winter surge, as we move inside and see more spread, even before Omicron,” Arwady said. “This is … regional with winter here and with a lot of people still not vaccinated.”

Omicron has been found in 19 states, “and I absolutely expect that it will be detected in Chicago or Illinois even in the next day or two,” Arwady said.

The city is following people who have been exposed to the variant and is waiting on test results for them, she said.

It’s not sure how Omicron will affect the pandemic in Chicago, as experts are studying the variant to determine how contagious it is, if it can make people more severely ill and if available vaccines are effective against it.

Arwady said experts expect the vaccines to offer some protection against Omicron, especially when it comes to preventing severe illness and death. But it’s possible people will need another booster shot to be better protected against Omicron in the future, she said.

For now, the best thing people can do is ensure they’re fully vaccinated and boosted, Arwady said.

“What I do know is getting the vaccines we have now and getting boosted has helped protect against the spread of Omicron in a number of case examples,” Arwady said.

And people who are sick should stay home and get tested to determine if they have COVID-19, Arwady said. The city’s health department has heard from residents who said they felt sick but thought it was a cold, so they went to Thanksgiving gatherings — only to then spread the virus among their loved ones at the holiday event.


• In Illinois, about 7.4 million people — or 58.84 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 69,951 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 17,768,693 vaccine doses of the 20,371,325 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.6 million Chicagoans — or 61.7 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 68.8 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

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:

• Seventy-eight Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Monday.

• At least 26,698 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 3,012 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 7,068 cases since Monday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,861,254.

• Since Monday, 174,247 tests were reported statewide. In all, 40,237,790 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 4.6 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 4.7 percent Monday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 5.5 percent. It was at 5.4 percent Monday.

• As of Monday night, 610 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 272 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, 27 deaths was reported since Monday. There have been at least 6,052 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than four people dying per day, a 62 percent increase from last week.

• Chicago has had 749 confirmed cases reported since Monday. It’s had a total of 350,523 confirmed cases. An average of 828 confirmed cases are being reported per day, up 50 percent from the week prior.

• Testing in Chicago is up 17 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.1 percent, up from 3.2 percent the week prior.

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