Chicago Department of Public Health Weekly Media Brief, 1/18/2024

January 18, 2024

CDPH Public Information

COVID By The Numbers: Data Deep Dive

Staying up to date on vaccinations is important for everyone to remain healthy during the colder winter months, but it is especially important for those who are at the highest risk for severe disease or death—including older Chicagoans and those with chronic medical conditions.

Being up to date on COVID-19 vaccination means getting the updated COVID-19 vaccine that came out in September 2023, regardless of previous vaccination or boosters. This updated vaccine is different from previous vaccines, as it was formulated to match the virus strains currently circulating, and remains very effective in preventing hospitalization, serious illness, and death.

The data shows that risk of death from COVID-19 is most pronounced among older Chicagoans, but despite these increased risks, not enough older Chicagoans are staying up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. Only 17 percent of those age 50-64, 30 percent of those age 65-74, and 34.1 percent of those age 75 and older have received the new, updated COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, Black and Latinx residents have lower rates of vaccination than white and Asian residents, despite being more disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Also notable is that the risk of death is higher among individuals with underlying medical conditions which puts them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease. 85 percent of Chicagoans who have died of COVID-19 had at least one underlying health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, respiratory disease, or obesity.

The takeaway? If you are older or have chronic medical conditions, or if you live or take care of someone in these categories, you absolutely need to get the updated vaccine to avoid the worst outcomes of severe COVID-19 in yourself and your loved ones. Let’s help all our seniors, and friends and family with underlying conditions get protected by making sure they get the updated vaccine.

New Free Federal Test to Treat Program

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a free at-home test to treat program for COVID-19 and flu. It provides free at-home test kits and telehealth appointments and, if you are sick, access to medications to treat COVID-19 or flu, if prescribed.

The new at-home program complements the nationwide Test to Treat initiative that helps people quickly access lifesaving treatments for COVID-19 at little to no cost. Site-based Test to Treat is still available at thousands of locations nationwide, including pharmacy-based clinics, federally-funded health centers, long-term care facilities, and community-based sites.

The program is available for both insured and uninsured people, with slightly different eligibility requirements for each.

  • Those who are uninsured or enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, or VA healthcare can sign up to receive free at-home COVID/flu tests. If they test positive, they can receive free telehealth care and medication for COVID-19 and/or flu, if prescribed
  • Those who are privately insured or have employer-sponsored healthcare are not currently eligible to receive free at-home tests. However, if they test positive for COVID-19 or flu, they are eligible to receive free telehealth care and medication for COVID-19 and/or flu, if prescribed.

Learn more and enroll in the program at or 1-800-682-2829.

Feel Like Continuing Beyond Dry January?

Chicagoans who participate in Dry January each year may do so for a plethora of reasons, but few know that there are medications to help reduce alcohol intake and cravings year-round. Last month, CDPH in partnership with the Illinois Department of Health and Human Service Substance Use Prevention and Recovery and Family Guidance Centers, expanded its MAR NOW program to offer same-day referral and treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder.

Three medications are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent a return to drinking: naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram. Each of these medications is nonaddictive, and they may be used alone or combined with behavioral treatments or mutual-support groups. Such treatment for is proven to be safe and effective. Interested people can get connected to care by calling the Illinois Helpline at 833-234-6343. For more information, read the full press release here.

Maternal Health Awareness Day

Tuesday, January 23 is National Maternal Health Awareness Day. Access to maternal health care has become unobtainable for a great number of people in the United States, with many women, especially those in the post-partum period, losing Medicaid coverage with the end of COVID-19 health emergency funding.

CDPH has resources available for moms and families. Family Connects Chicago is a free, in-home nurse visit available to families that live in Chicago and deliver babies at participating hospitals, including foster parents, adoptive parents and families who already have other children. CDPH’s OneChiFam website also has information and resources on maternal health, caring for yourself after the birth of your child, mental health resources, and nutrition tips for women.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will hold a Maternal Health Awareness Day webinar on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 1pm (Central). This live, one-hour webinar will feature people who are working to mitigate the nation’s maternal and reproductive health care access crisis. For more information and to register, follow this link.