A small party for a baby's first birthday left all six attendees with coronavirus in Chicago, the city's top doctor revealed. A city wedding has led to 15 new cases and counting this week alone.
The cases, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, highlight how gatherings, no matter how intimate, are in large part behind the spread of coronavirus across the city.
According to Arwady, the parents of a 1-year-old child had a small gathering to celebrate their baby's birthday. No one in attendance had symptoms the day of the party, but all six people in attendance later tested positive.
"Because people are very efficient, unfortunately, at spreading COVID in the two days before they get symptoms," Arwady said. "And there are people who don't develop symptoms at all, but can spread COVID that is why even if you are feeling well."
Meanwhile, a wedding in the city has left at least 15 people with coronavirus, ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s, Arwady said.
"People are picking up COVID in the community, and then bringing it to whatever setting they are next in. But the risk remains highest when folks are getting together with those they love and letting down their guard," Arwady said.
Chicago is currently experiencing a coronavirus outbreak worse than anything the city saw during the spring and it is showing "no signs of slowing down," she said.
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Speaking during a press conference to update on the pandemic in the city, Arwady said the city is seeing an average of 1,395 cases per day, a number the city said it had tried to keep below 200, where it was at one point during the summer months.
"I continue to hear people here in Chicago who think we're not talking about them... my goal is that every one of you is recognizing that when we are asking you to double down on the things we know work, we absolutely mean you," Arwady said. "There is not a single person in Chicago is not in some way at risk."
Arwady said the city knows of at least 15,000 active coronavirus infections as of Thursday, "but we know there are five to seven times that." She noted that the increase in cases has also led to an increase in hospitalizations and a "small uptick" in deaths.
The numbers, she said, are doubling, on average, every 12 days.
"If we don't slow this down... we will have hundreds of thousands of new cases by the end of the year," Arwady said.
Chicago, along with the rest of Illinois, is currently under heightened coronavirus mitigations imposed by state, despite opposition from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, which has led to the closure of indoor dining and bar service citywide.
"We will not get past this second wave unless people step up," Lightfoot said. "Shake up the COVID fatigue and step up... we take a lot of great pride in Chicago. We take care of ourselves, we are second to none - if that's all true, prove it."
Arwady again urged city residents to avoid gatherings in homes or in public.
"What can I do today to limit my risk? I'm not going to invite somebody into my home who doesn't live there unless it's essential. I'm not going to gather with people in really any setting without strict precautions. I'm absolutely not going to attend a party. I'm absolutely not going to take risks with other people's lives," Arwady said. "We know what to do. It's just time that we buckle down and do it."