CDPH COVID-19 Update: Chicago and Cook County Move to High COVID Community Level

May 26, 2022

CDPH strongly recommends masking in public indoor spaces

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

CHICAGO – Based on today’s late afternoon data update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as expected, Chicago and suburban Cook County have entered into the High COVID-19 Community Level, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced today. With the transition to the High level, the City is now strongly urging everyone to wear masks in indoor public settings and advising against non-essential indoor gatherings for people who are at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.

Because few people with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Chicago and the city’s health care system capacity is not threatened, no new citywide masking mandate will be put in place at this time--though individual businesses are welcome to set their own requirements. If COVID hospitalizations increased significantly and Chicago’s hospital capacity is threatened, mandates would be reinstated.

Case rates continue to increase throughout the Midwest and Northeast United States, and over 28 percent of the U.S. is now at a Medium or High COVID Community Level. A total of 15 of Illinois’ 102 counties are now at a High Level, including every northeastern Illinois county. This is up from 8 last week.

“We’ve been watching the data and expecting this development for a few weeks now,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “Along with a high number of cases, our regional health service area is starting to see some more COVID-19 hospitalizations. Thankfully, Chicago hospitals are still doing well and have plenty of capacity. Thanks in large part to vaccines, boosters, and early treatments, we currently have just over 200 confirmed COVID patients hospitalized across all 34 of our city’s hospitals, compared to nearly 2000 COVID patients hospitalized in early January.“

With the move to a High COVID Level, CDPH strongly urges masking in all public indoor spaces in Chicago—including on public transit. Chicagoans should also ensure that they and everyone in their social networks are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters; test when they experience COVID-19 symptoms; and continue to follow all isolation and quarantine requirements. Chicagoans with underlying conditions or who are older should also seek early treatment if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, to decrease the risk of hospitalization.

As a reminder, everyone aged 5 and older should receive a booster dose five months after their initial vaccination. People aged 50 and above, and those 12 and above with compromised immune systems, should also receive a second booster, four months after their first booster. Find more information about boosters on CDPH’s website.

“I’m glad there will be plenty of outdoor activities this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day,” Arwady said. “This news doesn’t need to impact picnics, parades, or outdoor parties planned for the holiday weekend, but as we move into a High COVID level, we advise some extra caution when it comes to indoor gatherings. People at high risk should consider limiting non-essential indoor gatherings.”

The CDC determines COVID-19 Community Levels as Low, Medium, or High, based on the number of new local COVID-19 cases, regional COVID-19 hospital admissions, and COVID-19 hospital capacity in the prior week. The CDC’s measurement of hospitalization data for Community Levels reflects the burden on the whole federally defined Health Service Area, which includes Cook, Lake, DuPage, and McHenry Counties.

There are early signs that the surge may be peaking, both in the Midwest and the Northeastern U.S. Case counts have started to plateau or trend down, though they remain very high overall. In official CDC data, Cook County (combining Chicago and suburban Cook data) reported 324 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days--which was actually a slight decrease from last week, when it was 338. The goal is to get back under 200 cases per 100,000 residents per week.

While 76% of Chicagoans aged 12 and older have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series, just 42% have also had the recommended vaccine booster. Children over 5 are now eligible for boosters. People aged 50 and over are also eligible for a second booster--but among Chicagoans age 65 and older, just 58% have had even one booster.

Chicago continues to offer free Pfizer vaccines, including first and second boosters, to all Chicagoans through Protect Chicago At Home. Schedule an appointment at your home, on your schedule (including evenings and weekends) through chicago.gov/athome or by calling 312-746-4835.

Visit chi.gov/coviddash for the Chicago COVID-19 daily data dashboard. When the CDC updates its COVID-19 Community Levels national map each week (typically on Thursday evenings), City of Chicago and suburban Cook County data are combined into one weekly case metric for Cook County. Hospitalization data, in contrast, reflect burden on the whole federally defined Health Service Area, which includes hospitals in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and McHenry counties. CDPH continues to track and report COVID-19 hospital burden specifically for Chicago hospitals every day on its dashboard and will continue to use this local hospital data to make further mitigation decisions.

COVID-19 Community Levels in U.S. by County

  Community Level Number of Counties Percent of Counties % Change from Prior Week
  High

250
(297 last week)

7.8% -1.46%
  Medium

668
(483 last week)

20.7% 5.74%
  Low

2305
(2444 last week) 

71.5% -4.29%

 

ALL travelers should check the CDC map so they know whether the areas they are traveling to are at a Low, Medium, or High COVID-19 Community Level. Anyone traveling to a part of the country at Medium or High Level is urged to take appropriate precautions.

  • If areas are Low Level (green), no additional action must be taken. Continue to follow standard guidance related to travel and up-to-date vaccination.
  • If the areas are Medium Level (yellow), CDPH recommends individuals wear a mask in indoor public places.
  • If the areas are High Level (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 Level counties.
    • Unvaccinated Chicagoans age 5 or older who travel to High Level counties are advised to follow CDC guidance upon returning to Chicago:
      • 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. Masks may be required by individual airports, airlines, and public transit agencies. Businesses may also still choose to require masks.

 

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