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O’Hare, Midway Airports Expecting 3 Million Travelers Over Holidays As Officials Warn Of COVID-19 Surge

Five states have been added back to Chicago's travel advisory as COVID-19 surges across the country.

People wear masks as they move through Terminal 1 at O'Hare International Airport on May 9, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Five states have been added back to Chicago’s travel advisory as COVID-19 surges across the country, and the city’s airports are gearing up for major holiday travel.

Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi and Texas are back on the list, as is Puerto Rico. There are now 47 states and two territories on the advisory.

The change comes as COVID-19 is surging around the United States, including in Chicago.

At the same time, O’Hare and Midway airports are preparing for 3 million travelers between now and Jan. 3, according to a Chicago Department of Aviation news release.

O’Hare expects to see 2.5 million passengers over that time period, a 168 percent increase over the comparable time period last year, according to the department. Midway is expecting to see about 500,000 passengers, a 50 percent increase.

The busiest travel day is expected to be Thursday, according to the Department of Aviation. O’Hare and Midway’s food and drink options are widely open.

Everyone 2 and older must wear a mask in the airport and on airplanes, and travelers are encouraged to arrive early since added security measures and the surge in travel demand could mean lines are longer, according to the Department of Aviation.

Travel Advisory

Unvaccinated travelers from places on the list should get a COVID-19 test one to three days before their trip and three to five days after arriving in Chicago, according to the health advisory. Unvaccinated people are also asked to quarantine for at least seven days upon arrival in the city, even if they get a negative test; those who don’t get tested are asked to quarantine for 10 days.

The quarantine and test rules do not apply for travelers who are fully vaccinated.

All people must wear masks on public transportation — including planes, buses and trains — and people must wear masks indoors in public in Chicago. Travelers are also asked to avoid crowds as much as possible and wash their hands or use sanitizer.

And unvaccinated people who traveled should avoid being around people at increased risk for severe illness — like older people and immunocompromised people — for at least 14 days, regardless of their test results, according to the health department.

All travelers are asked to watch themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and to isolate and get tested if they have symptoms.

The list:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, has previously urged Chicagoans who aren’t fully vaccinated not to travel to places on the list, as they could be at risk.

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