Chicago Department of Public Health Weekly Media Brief, 01/11/2024

January 11, 2024

CDPH Public Information

Extreme Cold Coming to Chicago This Weekend

Chicago’s first true winter weather of the season is expected to begin this week and continue into the coming weeks, with snowfall projected over the weekend along with temperatures plummeting into the negatives. As subzero cold sets in for the first time this year, CDPH urges all Chicagoans to exercise caution and use best practices to keep themselves safe, warm, and dry through the winter. Temperatures of 0 and below are extremely hazardous to human health, and exposure to the cold without proper preparation can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, and worse in a matter of minutes. Make sure to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid unnecessary trips outside. If you go out into the cold, limit the time you stay outside. Do not let children play outside for long periods of time.
  • Wear several layers of loose, warm clothing, paying special attention to keeping your head, ears, hands and feet warm.
  • Stay as dry as possible - being wet makes your body lose heat much faster than normal.
  • If you need to perform strenuous outdoor activity like shoveling snow, make sure to pace yourself and take breaks as needed, as extreme cold puts extra strain on the body.
  • Drink warm beverages and soup to help your body stay warm. Avoid alcoholic beverages, as alcohol dilates blood vessels, which makes the body lose heat faster.
  • Keep at least three days’ worth of drinking water and canned/no-cook food on hand.
  • Put together an emergency kit that includes extra blankets, first aid and medication supplies, and a flashlight with spare batteries.
  • Check in with family, friends, and neighbors, especially those who are elderly, disabled, and/or live alone.

The City of Chicago maintains warming centers all over the city – libraries are also open for those who need shelter from the cold. The Garfield Center, located at 10 S. Kedzie Avenue, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to connect residents to emergency shelter. If you're in need of non-emergency health or social support, call 211 for help.

COVID Update: Answering Your COVID Questions

We asked CDPH Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control Massimo Pacilli for an update on the current state of COVID-19 in Chicago.

What are the latest trends for COVID-19 risk in Chicago?

Data show that emergency department visits and hospitalizations continue to increase in Chicago. As of January 10, we are seeing an average of 37 hospitalizations each day, up from 34 the week prior.

According to CDC Hospital Admission Level metrics, which look at new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, Cook County is currently at Medium risk.

All data are updated weekly and posted on CDPH’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

Does CDPH recommend people wear masks now that the local hospital admissions level has reached Medium?

As COVID-19 continues to circulate locally and across the U.S., masks remain an important tool to mitigate transmission. CDPH strongly recommends people wear masks in the following circumstances:

  • If you have symptoms, a positive test for a respiratory virus, or exposure to someone with COVID-19
  • If you are immunocompromised or at high risk of contracting severe disease
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick.
  • In addition: consider self-testing to detect infection before contact, and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them.

Masks are only one tool in helping to reduce the spread of respiratory illness. Additionally, everyone should stay up-to-date with vaccines, wash their hands frequently, maintain indoor ventilation improvements, avoid contact with people who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, and stay home and talk with their doctor when sick.

Is it too late for people to get the new COVID-19 vaccine or a flu shot?

No, it’s not too late to get vaccinated! COVID-19 and flu continue to circulate throughout the winter months, and vaccination remains the single best thing people can do to protect themselves from severe illness. Everyone age 6 months and older should get the updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot. If you have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine since last September, you are NOT up to date.

What are we seeing locally in terms of COVID-19 variants?

Locally and nationally, the JN.1 variant continues to dominate. Locally, it comprises 58 percent of cases. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that this new variant presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants.

Healthy Chicago Podcast

In the newest episodes of the Healthy Chicago podcast, Sarah Richardson, Program Manager in the Office of Substance Use at CDPH, joined Dr. Brian Borah to discuss the ongoing opioid crisis and how the newly launched public health vending machines can be helpful tools in reducing fatal overdoses. Also, Jesús Reyes, Director of Substance Use at Pilsen Wellness Center, sat down with Dr. Geraldine Luna to talk about opioid use disorder and overdose in the Latinx community in Chicago, its existing stigmas, and the resources that are available to help those struggling with opioid use disorder. Listen to the episode on Harm Reduction, Naloxone/Narcan, and Chicago’s Public Health Vending Machines at and on all platforms: