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Chicago In ‘New Phase’ Of Pandemic, With Cases Down And Treatments Available — But COVID Won’t Be Eradicated, Top Doc Says

"Our ability to prevent or reduce severe illness [with vaccinations and treatments] makes it less critical to focus on stopping every case of COVID-19," Dr. Allison Arwady said.

Tulips flourish across the street from the Chicago Theatre on State Street in the Loop on May 5, 2021.
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CHICAGO — The city’s in a new phase of the pandemic — and its COVID-19 numbers are looking good, Chicago’s top doctor said Thursday.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped sharply in Chicago since hitting record highs in late December and early January during the Omicron surge. The city’s now in the “lower” or “low” categories for every metric when it comes to COVID-19 transmission and risk.

“The news on COVID continues to be very, very good,” Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Thursday livestream. “We are low by every way you count.”

Other good signs: Vaccine, booster shots and tests are widely available, and effective treatments that can prevent people from becoming severely ill have been developed, Arwady said.

Those developments have led to officials dropping mask and vaccine card mandates in recent weeks, though they’ve said they could return should a worrisome variant develop or if the outbreak worsens.

“We are in a new phase of this pandemic,” Arwady said.

Arwady said she’s still concerned about the wellbeing of people who have not been vaccinated against or exposed to COVID-19, as they have no protection against the virus. And she said daily vaccinations are lower than she’d like.

But officials are now starting to look at how people will live with COVID-19 into the future. Arwady’s said they might stop tracking the total number of cases in the future, focusing more on severe COVID-19 cases that lead to people being hospitalized or dying. They’ll keep an eye on those figures to ensure hospitals and health care systems don’t get overwhelmed, she said.

“But, really, our ability to prevent or reduce severe illness [with vaccinations and treatments] makes it less critical to focus on stopping every case of COVID-19,” Arwady said.

The world will not eradicate COVID-19, barring a breakthrough, she said.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8.1 million people — or 64 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 9,897 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,208,109 vaccine doses of the 23,940,645 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69.6 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 76.9 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, 42 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,052 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,219 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 1,398 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,043,893.

• Since Wednesday, 131,502 tests were reported statewide. In all, 55,602,003 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 1.2 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 1.2 percent Wednesday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 1.3 percent. It was at 1.4 percent Wednesday.

• As of Wednesday night, 135 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 60 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, six deaths were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 7,297 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than two people dying per day, down 40 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 314 confirmed cases reported since Wednesday. It’s had a total of 560,537 confirmed cases. An average of 141 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 30 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 2 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at .7 percent, down from 1 percent a week ago.

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