Chicago Department of Public Health releases updated Travel Advisory with almost 9 percent of the U.S. at Medium to High level for COVID spread

March 25, 2022

CDPH revamps Advisory to align with CDC community levels, advises unvaccinated travelers to take special precautions

COVID-19 Joint Information Center     media.coronavirus@cityofchicago.org

CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is advising unvaccinated travelers to take special precautions if they plan to travel in the coming week to areas of the United States – such as parts of the upper Plains, upper Northeast, and Kentucky – that have higher COVID-19 risk levels than the rest of the country, based on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) COVID-19 Community Levels. CDPH is adjusting its Travel Advisory to align with this new county-level guidance from the CDC and will provide its travel guidance every Friday going forward.

The CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels (CCL) tool is designed to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used by COVID-19 patients, new COVID-19 hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. The CDC measures COVID-19 Community Levels in counties from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 78 counties in Puerto Rico.

According to the CDC’s CCL advisory this week, 8.9 percent (286) of the 3,220 counties in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have COVID-19 levels that are “medium” to “high.” CDPH advises anyone traveling to these areas to consult the CDC’s CCL map to determine the risk level and precautions to take. This county-level data from the CDC is color-coded to reflect low (green), medium (yellow), or high (orange) risk. Cook County is currently low risk.

Most states have low COVID-19 levels, but a couple states, such as Montana and Kentucky, have significant clusters of medium-to-high COVID-19 levels.

Six Michigan counties, all in the upper northwest portion of the state around the Traverse City area, have high COVID-19 levels. No Wisconsin counties have high COVID-19 levels currently.

ALL travelers should check the CDC map so they know whether the areas they are traveling to are low, medium, or high risk for COVID-19.

  • If areas are low risk (green), no additional action must be taken. Continue to follow standard guidance related to travel.
  • If the areas are medium risk (yellow), consider wearing a mask in indoor public places.
  • If the areas are high risk (orange):
    • Wear a mask in indoor public places.
    • Travelers who are age 5 or older who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines are advised to avoid travel to high-risk (orange) counties.
    • Unvaccinated Chicagoans age 5 or older who travel to high-risk (orange) counties, upon returning to Chicago are advised to follow CDC guidance:
      • Stay home and quarantine for 5 days after travel
      • Take a COVID test 3-5 days after return – if it is positive, stay home and follow CDC guidance.
  • ALL travelers are also advised to:
    • Ensure you are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines (including boosters) before any planned travel.
    • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
    • Consider packing an at-home COVID test in case you develop symptoms while traveling.
    • Bring a mask with you. Remember that masks are required at airports, on airplanes, and on all public transportation at this time. Businesses may also still choose to require masks.

Given that children under 5 are not yet eligible for vaccination, at this time they are exempted from the City’s Travel Advisory, as long as the adults they are traveling with are vaccinated. Under the updated Advisory, CDPH continues to follow CDC guidance for all travel – including international travel.

Vaccination continues to be the best protection of severe outcomes from COVID-19 – including hospitalization or death. The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available at pharmacies and health care providers across the City. CDPH will bring the vaccine to Chicago residents at their homes, free of charge, through Protect Chicago At Home. Up to 10 people at a residence (age 5 and up) can be vaccinated. Make an appointment at Chicago.gov/AtHome or by calling 312-746-4835. CDPH also holds regular vaccination events across the city, find the full list at Chicago.gov/VaxCalendar.

CDPH continues to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 in other regions across the country. For more information, visit Chicago.gov/coronavirus.

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