Chicago Department of Public Health Provides Update on Phase Three Progress and New Metrics Looking Toward Phase Four
City continues to make progress against COVID-19, Commissioner Arwady warns against complacency
Andy Buchanan Andrew.Buchanan@cityofchicago.org
CHICAGO – Chicago continues to make progress in containing the spread of COVID-19 as it has moved into phase three of its ‘Protecting Chicago’ re-opening framework, ‘Cautiously Reopen,’ but officials continue to closely watch the health data and warn against complacency. Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., provided a data update today showing continued positive progress and also discussed the updated metrics the City will be using as it considers a possible move to phase four in the coming weeks.
In addition, the City unveiled a new data dashboard developed with its Racial Equity Rapid Response Team (RERRT) and the CDPH Office of Epidemiology in partnership with community-based organizations, where residents can explore more granular data about COVID-19 and their communities. The dashboard can be accessed at https://chi.gov/coviddash.
The city continues to experience a declining number of new COVID-19 cases, with declines seen across racial groups; stable or declining rates of cases resulting in hospitalization, ICU admission, and/or death; and declining emergency department visits for influenza-like illness and/or COVID-like illness. Another important measure, the percent positivity rate (the percentage of people tested for COVID-19 who are positive), also continues to decline and is now below 10% citywide.
“While the data shows ongoing improvement in our collective response to COVID-19, we still continue to see new cases and deaths every day, and I am concerned about a possible resurgence as people interact more,” said Dr. Arwady. “With the stay-at-home order lifted and warmer weather, we’re seeing people out and about more and getting together in groups. And on top of that we’ve had large gatherings in the streets over the past couple weeks. We haven’t seen an uptick in cases yet but we’re watching closely, and we’re concerned.”
Dr. Arwady, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and other officials have consistently warned residents to continue to physically distance and to abide by other guidance: wear a face covering in public; limit non-business, social gatherings to <10 persons; stay at home if you feel ill or have come into contact with someone with COVID-19.
“We’ve made so much progress, and by progress, I mean we’ve prevented infections, protected our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, and we’ve saved lives,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “We would hate to see that be reversed. And the communities and people that have been most impacted by this outbreak – Black and Brown communities, and older people and those with under-lying health conditions – will suffer the most in any resurgence, so I implore people to continue to take this seriously.”
CDPH also announced the adjusted metrics it will be seeking to meet as the city considers a move to phase four. For example, the new goal for percent positivity is less than 7%. Conversely, if percent positivity increases again to over 15% or the city sees a sustained increase in cases and deaths, that may trigger a return to more restrictive policies.
“We’re seeing increases in cases in about 20 others states that reopened, so our concern is real,” said Dr. Arwady. “No single measure will determine whether we move forward or backward but we’ll be watching all of them as we make that call.”
A new system that places will help guide that decision:
- Green – Go: cautious progress, continued progress or advanced progress
- Yellow – Caution: pause and monitor
- Red – Stop: may need to reinstate certain restrictions
Currently, the city is in green for all metrics except for testing capacity, which is in yellow as it has seen some disruptions in testing recently with the demonstrations and inclement weather. The updated metrics can be found here.
The new data dashboard was prompted by the desire to make community-level data more accessible, particularly for African American and Latinx residents who have been most impacted by the outbreak. The RERRT, which was created by the City to be responsive to these communities, wanted a clearer understanding of the change in the COVID-19 outbreak by race and neighborhood. The dashboard can be accessed from the ‘Latest Data’ tab on the COVID home page, www.chicago.gov/coronavirus. It was developed in partnership with community groups, the CDPH Office of Epidemiology and Slalom Consulting, with support from the Civic Consulting Alliance, and will be constantly updated so community organizations and residents are encouraged to continue to provide input.
“West Side United has always believed in transparency and accountability through access to data, and we have displayed health metrics on West Side communities on our web site for the past year,” said Eve Shapiro, Director of Data and Evaluation at West Side United, which was part of the team working on the dashboard. “We are glad to further the expansion of access to data through the development of the Chicago COVID-19 Data Dashboard and believe that it will enable communities to learn more about how their neighborhoods and neighbors have been impacted by COVID-19.”
Carrie Steyer, General Manager of Slalom, said there is power in providing the public with accurate and direct access to data and insights.
“For Chicagoans, the dashboard helps each of us see how COVID-19 is impacting our communities and make more informed health decisions,” Steyer said. “The dashboard creates visibility around communities that have been disproportionately impacted. It provides timely public health data to help our city leaders make better informed decisions in the areas of racial equity and public health. Slalom is proud to have brought this to life for our city and grateful to Civic Consulting Alliance for convening and coordinating the cross-sector leadership needed to get it done.”