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Masks Aren’t Going Away Anytime Soon As COVID Cases Remain High, Chicago’s Top Doc Says

The health commissioner said she expects the city's and state's mask mandates will be removed at some point — but that isn't imminent since the Omicron surge is still so bad.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot prepares to receive her second COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Allison Arwady in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood on Feb. 19, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Chicagoans should expect to wear masks in public for a while longer, the city’s top doctor said Thursday.

The city has passed its Omicron peak and is beginning to see its average new number of cases per day and its positivity rate fall, officials said at a Wednesday news conference. But they’ve urged caution as cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain high, saying people should still get vaccinated, get tested and wear a mask.

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, doubled down on that stance during a Thursday livestream.

The health commissioner said she expects the city’s and state’s mask mandates will be removed at some point in the future — but that removal isn’t imminent since the Omicron surge is still so bad.

Arwady said people should continue to wear a mask in public around others and take other safety precautions.

“If we see people feel like, ‘I don’t have to do any of these things’ … we won’t come down as quickly and effectively … [and it will take] longer to get to that point we all want to get,” Arwady said.

Getting vaccinated is still the most important part of staying safe during the pandemic, Arwady said.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 7.8 million people — or 61.63 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 45,522 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 20,159,853 vaccine doses of the 22,692,465 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.7 million Chicagoans — or 65.9 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 73.9 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:

• Since Wednesday, 198 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 29,708 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 3,570 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 23,246 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 2,732,720.

• Since Wednesday, 237,161 tests were reported statewide. In all, 49,197,443 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 11.3 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 12 percent Wednesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 14.8 percent. It was at 15 percent Wednesda.

• As of Wednesday night, 1,033 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 586 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, 41 deaths were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 6,695 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of 14 people dying per day, down 38 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 3,566 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 518,504 confirmed cases. An average of 2,819 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 50 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 21 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 11.9 percent, down from 17.4 percent a week ago.

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