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Chicagoans Should Mask Indoors As City Now Considered Medium Risk For COVID, Health Department Advises

The city's health department is "strongly recommending" people wear masks when indoors in public, including on public transportation.

Passengers mask up on the CTA.
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CHICAGO — The city’s health department is “strongly recommending” people wear masks when indoors in public in Chicago, as the city is now considered medium risk for COVID-19.

The city moved from the low to medium risk category Friday due to the significant increase in COVID-19 cases being reported every day. Officials had said they expected Chicago to move to this category, and they advised people to not be alarmed.

People should wear masks when indoors in public in Chicago, including on public transportation; get vaccinated and boosted and help those around them get the shots; test if they experience COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and quarantine if needed.

The change is “not a cause for alarm, since most cases right now are mild and thankfully our COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths remain at or near all-time pandemic lows in Chicago,” health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “But it is reason for more caution, and for more care with masking, since more people in Chicago are infected with COVID right now.

“Remember that people can spread COVID for two days before they develop symptoms, so putting on a mask in public indoor settings is an easy way to help protect our city while we’re at a Medium COVID Level.”

Still, the city is not yet requiring masks in indoor settings. Arwady has said that could happen if the city moves up to the high risk category.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluates a county as low, medium or high risk depending on the number of new COVID-19 cases in that area, as well as what toll COVID-19 is placing on the area’s health care system.

About 12.3 percent of U.S. counties — or 397 of 3,220 counties — are in the medium or high risk categories, a 26 percent increase from last week, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Nine northeastern Illinois counties are at medium risk level: Cook, Lake, McHenry, Winnebago, DeKalb, Kane, DuPage, Kendall and Will. Five counties in central Illinois are also at medium risk level.

The CDC has also recommended everyone 2 and older wear masks when traveling.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated.

Here’s the city’s guidance:

Low-Risk Areas

Travelers do not need to take additional action, but they should follow standard guidance related to travel, according to the health department.

Medium-Risk Areas

Travelers should consider wearing a mask when indoors in public places.

High-Risk Areas

All travelers:

  • Wear a mask indoors in public place.
  • People 5 and older who are not fully vaccinated should avoid travel to high-risk counties.
  • All travelers should be fully vaccinated and boosted before traveling.
  • Travelers should watch themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. They should isolate and get tested if they develop symptoms.
  • Travelers should consider packing an at-home COVID-19 test so they can use it if they develop symptoms.
  • All travelers should bring a mask with them.

Unvaccinated travelers:

  • Unvaccinated Chicagoans who are 5 or older and go to a high-risk county should stay home and quarantine for five days after returning to Chicago.
  • Those travelers should also take a COVID-19 test three to five days after returning to Chicago. If it’s positive, they should stay home and follow CDC guidance.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 8.2 million people — or 64.76 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 14,163 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 22,018,536 vaccine doses of the 26,873,845 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 69 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 77.2 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 Monday, 40 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,660 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,296 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 21,652 cases since Monday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,169,315.

• The state is reporting an average of 240 confirmed cases per day per 100,000 people. That average was at 200 on Monday.

• As of Thursday night, 66 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 24 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, seven deaths were reported since Monday. There have been at least 7,383 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of less than one death per day, unchanged from last week.

• Chicago has had 4,322 confirmed cases reported since Monday. It’s had a total of 588,055 confirmed cases. An average of 754 confirmed cases are being reported per day, up 16 percent from a week ago.

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

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.1 percent, up from 3.7 percent a week ago.

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