CDPH COVID-19 Update: Cook County and Chicago shift to Low COVID-19 Community Level just below Medium Threshold based on CDC Metrics

November 18, 2022

With seasonal flu and RSV surging, CDPH reminds people not to let guard down: Get updated COVID-19 booster and flu shot now

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

CHICAGO – Chicago and Cook County have shifted back into the Low COVID-19 Community Level according to the latest Community Level metrics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite this change, CDPH announced that respiratory viruses are surging and COVID-19 is still with us, and is reminding all residents that it is critical to get the updated COVID-19 booster as well as a seasonal flu shot as soon as possible.

The CDC updates its COVID-19 Community Levels national map each week. The metric that affects us most is hospitalization data that reflects a burden on the whole federally defined Health Service Area, which includes hospitals in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and McHenry counties. Last week, new hospitalizations were just over the threshold pushing us into the Medium Level. This week, we are just below that threshold.

“This change reflects a continued shift in regional hospitalizations. We may continue to move between Low and Medium in the weeks to come," said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “Our goal is to avoid a High Level where our hospital system is overwhelmed with COVID patients. I ask Chicagoans to exercise caution ahead of the holiday season. Protect yourself and your loved ones from severe outcomes from COVID by getting up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated bivalent booster.”

Seasonal Flu and RSV are Surging

Both Chicago and the United States are seeing sharp increases in flu cases, well beyond where we were at this point in previous years. Nationwide, outpatient visits for respiratory illness are highest among the youngest populations: 15.4 percent of patients are 0-4 years old, 10 percent are 5-24. Across the country, the percentage of emergency department visits this season for RSV in children under the age of 5 years is 4.5 times higher than the same time last year.

Young children and older adults are both at higher risk of severe outcomes like hospitalization and death from influenza and should be vaccinated to prevent such outcomes. However, the vaccination rate for kids is lower now than it was pre-pandemic. In 2019-20, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of children age 6 months to 4 years were vaccinated against flu, compared to less than 72 percent last year.

Both COVID-19 and flu vaccines are widely available at pharmacies across the city; find your vaccine at vaccines.gov. CDPH is hosting a free flu/COVID-19 vaccination clinic tomorrow, Saturday, November 19 at Kennedy King College, 6301 S. Halsted St. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration is recommended, but walk-ins will be accommodated. Primary series COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines for Chicagoans 6 months and up will be offered, as well as bivalent COVID boosters for those who are eligible. CDPH will host weekend flu/COVID-19 vaccination clinics at City College locations through December.  

The City continues to operate Protect Chicago At Home, its novel and completely free program that will bring COVID—and now flu-—vaccines right to any Chicagoan’s home and vaccinate up to 10 people in a single appointment. COVID-19 vaccines, including primary doses and the new booster vaccines are available for anyone age 6 months and up. Now, Chicagoans age 6 months and up can also receive a flu vaccine at home if at least one member of the household is receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Appointments are available mornings, afternoons, and evenings, weekdays and weekends. Make an at-home appointment for your family at Chicago.gov/AtHome or by calling (312) 746-4835.

In addition, CDPH continues to host mobile vaccination events over the coming weeks to administer bivalent booster vaccines and flu vaccines for high-risk populations such as senior centers, Chicago Housing Authority facilities and other congregate living settings, as well as general vaccination events all over the City in partnership with aldermen and community and religious organizations. Find vaccination events in your neighborhood at Chicago.gov/vaxcalendar or call the City’s COVID-19 Hotline at (312) 746-4835. Residents can find out where to get the updated vaccine at a pharmacy by visiting vaccines.gov. 

COVID-19 Bivalent Booster Updates

As of November 16, 14.4 percent of all Chicagoans age 5 and up have received the updated COVID booster vaccine, compared to 11.3 percent of all Americans. Among eligible Chicagoans (those who have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series), 21 percent have received their updated booster vaccine. However, there continues to be disparities by race and ethnicity. Among eligible Chicagoans, 32 percent of White residents have received the updated booster, compared to 22.7 percent of Asian residents, 16.4 percent of Black/non-Latinx residents and 11.7 percent of Latinx residents. As of November 16, more than 387,000 doses (up from 350,000 last week) of the updated booster have been administered to Chicagoans.

Everyone age 5 and up who has previously been vaccinated against COVID-19 is eligible to receive the new, updated vaccine, known as the bivalent booster, which is designed to better protect against the Omicron subvariants BA.4/5 as well as original strains of the virus. The bivalent booster generates a stronger immune response against current and future Omicron subvariants.

COVID-19 By the Numbers

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 Levels were developed to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest local COVID-19 data.

CDPH also continues to track and report COVID-19 hospital burden specifically for Chicago hospitals every day on its dashboard and uses this local hospital data to make further mitigation decisions. Visit chi.gov/coviddash for the Chicago COVID-19 daily data dashboard.

Metrics
 

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

New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population (7-day total)

Proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (7-day average)

  [GOAL is <200] [GOAL is <10] [GOAL is <10%]
City of Chicago 104 8.1 3.6%
Cook County (including City of Chicago) 104 9.1 3.7%
Cook County metrics are calculated by the CDC and posted on the CDC Community Levels website (data as of 11/17/2022).

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

Nationwide, COVID-19 Community Levels are mostly holding steady. Approximately 19.5 percent of U.S. counties are at the Medium or High COVID-19 Level, and the rest are Low. In Illinois, only Winnebago County is at the High Level and 20 other counties are Medium (32 last week), the rest are Low. Travelers should be aware of whether areas they are visiting are Low, Medium, or High risk for COVID-19 by checking the CDC’s map, and take proper precautions, which should include reviewing CDPH’s travel guidance.

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

90
(84 last week)

2.8% +0.19%
  Medium

537
(676 last week)

16.68 % -4.31%
  Low

2,592
(2,460  last week)

80.52% +4.12%

For additional COVID-19 information, visit Chicago.gov/COVID.

Travel Healthy Campaign

Ahead of the busy holiday travel season, the City launched a new campaign with tips and resources to help Chicagoans and visitors travel safely. At Chicago.gov/travelhealthy, visitors can find current COVID-19 travel guidance as well as information on emerging health risks impacting Chicago.

“Chicago is open and thriving. But COVID-19 and other diseases remain a reality we must acknowledge,” said Dr. Arwady. “In our interconnected world, we must stay vigilant, especially now. Protect yourself and others by following simple health guidance and staying up to date with vaccines. These resources will help people stay safe as they enjoy travelling.”

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