CDPH Weekly COVID-19 Update

May 3, 2022

Chicago’s COVID-19 Level is Currently Low but Expected to Rise to Medium Soon—in which case CDPH will strongly recommend masking indoors

CHICAGO—The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported weekly COVID-19 statistics today and said the city continues to remain in the Low category on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) COVID-19 Community Levels index. However, the slowly rising case rate is expected to exceed 200 per 100,000 population in the next week or two, which would put Chicago at the Medium Level, based only on increasing case counts.

Severe outcomes in Chicago, including both COVID-19 hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths, continue to remain at or near all-time pandemic lows. This means Chicago will not move into the High Level—which requires both higher case rates and significant impact on the health system and could lead to a reinstatement of mask mandates—in the near future.

As the city moves toward Medium Level, Chicago is increasing wastewater and variant sampling strategies and working to ensure rapid tests and vaccines remain widely available, especially in less-vaccinated communities. 


COVID-19 RISK

CDPH uses CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels to gauge the level of risk here in Chicago. Two weeks ago, our neighboring county DuPage moved to Medium Level. Last week, neighboring Lake County and suburban Cook County (excluding Chicago) also moved into the Medium Level. Suburban Cook County had a rate of 219 new cases per 100,000 people last week. Other large cities, including Washington, DC and New York City, have similarly moved to Medium Level in the last few weeks.

“Watching the way the data is trending, I would not be surprised if Chicago moves to the Medium Level this week or next,” said Allison Arwady, M.D., CDPH Commissioner. “While we are far from reaching the High Level, I do want to remind people that as cases rise, they should take more precautions, especially if they or someone in their household is at high-risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19. Residents should continue to feel comfortable going to work, going to school, and traveling on CTA buses and trains, but should exercise caution, not only for themselves, but to protect others.”

“As always, I am most worried about unvaccinated people as they are still at the highest risk. If you are not vaccinated, or you are not up to date with your vaccines because you have not received a booster and you are eligible–now is the time to do it,” added Dr. Arwady. “These next few weeks will be critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19, so we can get back to the Low level and focus on enjoying Spring and Summer safely in Chicago.”

When Chicago moves to the Medium Level, CDPH will strongly recommend individuals wear a mask in indoor places where vaccination status is not known and continue with other COVID-19 mitigations: ensure everyone is up-to-date with vaccines and boosters; get tested if experiencing COVID-like symptoms; continue to follow quarantine and isolation guidelines; and stay home if you are sick. Although the emergence of a new variant of concern or a worrisome change in viral transmission dynamics could require a more conservative approach, CDPH currently has no plan to reinstate mask requirements across the city unless Chicago reaches High Level, which is not imminent. Similarly, at Medium Level, Chicago Public Schools will continue to strongly encourage masks in schools, but not require them.

Metrics
 

New Cases
(Per 100,000 people in last 7 days)

LOW is <200

New COVID-19 Hospital Admissions
(Per 100,000 people in last 7 days)

LOW is <10

Proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients
(7 day average)
LOW is <10%

Chicago: LOW 183 2.8 2.4%

Chicago remains at low level based on the COVID-19 Community Levels from the CDC, which is determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.
Chicago metrics are calculated based on Chicago-level data (data as of 5/2/2022).

BY THE NUMBERS

Over the last week, an average of 709 Chicagoans each day had a positive laboratory test for COVID-19, up from an average of 602 new cases per day the week prior. An average of 12 Chicagoans are being hospitalized with COVID-19 each day, similar to last week; and an average of just one Chicagoan is dying from COVID-19 per week, still the lowest rate of the pandemic.  

Current test positivity is 3.9%, only slightly increased from 3.8% last week. As a reminder, test positivity generally has a reduced utility due to the widespread use of point-of-care and at-home tests. That is why the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels do not rely on percent positivity to measure the impact of COVID-19 illness on communities. 

Additional data is available on the City’s COVID dashboard at Chi.gov/COVIDdash.

 

INCREASING CAPACITY OF CHICAGO’S LAB BASED SURVEILLANCE

With rising case rates, CDPH in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has increased sampling frequency in their wastewater surveillance program. “Wastewater,” also referred to as “sewage,” includes water from households and sewers that can contain human fecal waste. Because people with COVID-19 can shed the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their stool, wastewater can be tested for genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The program is now sampling sewage from wastewater treatment plants serving the Chicago area three times per week to analyze concentration trends over time and by communities served.

In addition, as the city moves toward the Medium Level, CDPH is increasing its variant surveillance through genomic sequencing to further monitor the specific virus variants that are circulating in the city to determine which are causing the rise in cases. CDPH has partnered with Rush University Medical Center to form the Regional Innovative Public Health Laboratory (RIPHL). RIPHL collects specimens from hospitals across the Chicago region, and performs whole genome sequencing for public health surveillance. This week, CDPH asked hospitals to double sample submissions to RIPHL to provide more detailed data on the Omicron sublineages that may be driving the increase in cases.

PEDIATRIC VACCINATIONS

Last week, Moderna submitted an application to the FDA to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for children under 6. Both the FDA and the CDC as well as their external advisory committees will review the data and make recommendations, which is expected to happen over the month of June. CDPH is ready to roll out free pediatric vaccinations for children under 5 as soon as a vaccine is authorized and distributed, including through pediatrician offices, centralized vaccination clinics, and our in-home vaccination program, Protect Chicago At Home.

“As soon as it is approved, I will absolutely encourage children under 5 to be vaccinated, including those children in my family,” added Dr. Arwady. “The safety data for the trials in this age group has been impeccable.”

 

VACCINATION

Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccination remains the best way to prevent serious outcomes of COVID-19, including severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

  • More than 2 million Chicagoans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine – that’s 82.5 percent of residents age 5 and older. And 73.4 percent have completed the vaccine series.
  • Vaccinations and boosters remain free and widely available in Chicago:
    • Vaccines are available through hundreds of healthcare providers and pharmacies across the city, often without an appointment
    • Through Protect Chicago At Home, all Chicagoans age 5 and up are eligible to be vaccinated free of charge in their own home
      • Primary vaccine doses, as well as first and second booster doses, are all available
      • Up to 10 people can be vaccinated per household, with weekend and evening appointments available
      • Call (312) 746-4835 to make an appointment or register at Chicago.gov/AtHome
  • Lastly, vaccines can be found at mobile vaccination events in partnership with community-based organizations, and at CPS locations throughout the week – a full calendar of events can be found at Chicago.gov/VaxCalendar

All COVID-19 vaccines in Chicago are offered at no cost, with no insurance and no government ID required. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines in Chicago, visit Chicago.gov/COVIDvax.

 

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