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Chicago Officials ‘Watching Closely’ As COVID Cases Climb Globally, But City’s Numbers Remain Low

Dr. Allison Arwady said she "can't promise what the future will bring," but she's "confident" COVID-19 risk is low enough that a universal mask mandate is not needed.

Dr. Allison Arwady speaks at a City Hall press conference on Dec. 21, 2021, where it was announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccine will be required for Chicago bars, restaurants and gyms starting Jan. 3.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — City officials are “watching closely” as other parts of the world struggle with their COVID-19 outbreaks and cases rise globally.

Chicago’s numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted since hitting record highs in late December and early January during the Omicron surge. The city’s positivity rate is near an all-time low. In response, Chicago lifted its mask and vaccine card mandates, public schools have gone mask-optional and large festivals are set to make a return this spring and summer.

But other parts of the world are still in the midst of Omicron surges, with portions of Asia experiencing their worst-ever surges while Europe is beginning to see a rise in cases, according to The New York Times.

“… We, of course, are watching this very closely,” Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Tuesday news conference. “And I will say that Omicron, in particular, I think has proven that you cannot have a zero-COVID strategy.”

China was trying to have a zero-COVID approach, but Omicron is “so much more infectious” that it’s forcing officials to change their approach, Arwady said.

And a subvariant of Omicron, dubbed Omicron BA.2, may be what’s driving rising cases in Europe, Arwady said. That subvariant has been found in Chicago, as well, though Omicron remains the dominant strain reported in the city.

Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have said they won’t hesitate to bring back safety measures should there be another wave of COVID-19 in Chicago.

Arwady pointed to summer 2021 as an example for the future: The city had a “good summer” in 2021, and some restrictions were lifted, Arwady saw. Cases were low in Chicago before the Delta variant emerged in late summer.

“When a new variant came, and we started to see some issues, we put the mask back on,” Arwady said. “If a new variant comes, if we have issues, we would do that again. Hoping we don’t need to. Feeling good about the short term.”

Arwady said she “can’t promise what the future will bring,” but she’s “confident” that COVID-19 risk is currently low enough that a universal mask mandate is not needed and in-person learning is appropriate.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8.1 million people — or 64.12 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 8,511 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,257,672 vaccine doses of the 25,630,345 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69.7 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 77 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 Tuesday, 25 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,164 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,255 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 1,031 cases since Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,050,647.

• Since Tuesday, 92,071 tests were reported statewide. In all, 56,101,517 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day case positivity rate was at 1.3 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 1.4 percent Tuesday.

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

• As of Tuesday night, 94 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 41 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, four deaths were reported since Tuesday. There have been at least 7,316 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than one person dying per day, down 39 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago has had 243 confirmed cases reported since Tuesday. It’s had a total of 562,235 confirmed cases. An average of 135 confirmed cases are being reported per day, down 6 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 8 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at .7 percent, down from .8 percent a week ago.

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