Two states were added back onto Chicago's travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the number of states on the city's warning list to 40 states and one territory just two days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Connecticut and Maryland both returned to the "orange category" under the travel advisory, meaning unvaccinated travelers traveling from or returning from those states will need to test and quarantine upon their arrival to the city.
California, Guam and North Carolina could come off the list next week, the city said.
As of Tuesday, every U.S. state or territory except for Alabama, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the Virgin Islands are on the advisory.
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States are added to the advisory's "orange list" when COVID metrics rise above the threshold of 15 cases per day per 100,000 people. Any below that mark are on the "yellow" list, with public health officials still warning against non-essential travel.
"Right now, for unvaccinated people, traveling over Thanksgiving is a risky move, especially if you plan to visit other Midwest or Upper Midwest states, where the daily case rates have not been going down,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement last week. “Fully vaccinated people are at a much lower risk of serious COVID-related health problems, but all of us should be careful over the coming weeks – even more so if you plan to be among crowds or at large family gatherings.”
Just before the Labor Day, the city updated its guidance for what unvaccinated travelers visiting or returning from such locations should do, adding new testing and quarantining recommendations before and after travel.
According to the city, before travel, unvaccinated individuals should:
- Get tested 3-5 days prior to departure.
- ALL individuals regardless of vaccination status should wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- In Chicago, wear a mask in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
- Avoid crowds, try to stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
After travel, unvaccinated individuals should:
- Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days.
- Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
- Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
The city advised all travelers to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if they develop any after travel.
"We have seen and know that travel is a significant risk factor for acquiring COVID," Arwady said. "If you decide not to get tested, the recommendation is actually to stay home and self quarantine for 10 days after travel, and you should avoid being around anybody who has an increased risk for severe COVID outcomes for 14 days after travel regardless of whether you get tested or not. Obviously we want anybody who's traveling to self monitor for COVID symptoms and get tested if you develop symptoms."
This week's update to the travel advisory comes at a time when the average daily number of new cases in Chicago rose to 567 per day - up 15% from the 494 seen the previous week.
That figure is much higher than the low of 34 the city saw in late June but remains lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing during the most recent surge earlier this year.
Hospitalizations in Chicago are down 13% from the previous week, but deaths increased by 24% since last week, per the city's data. The positivity rate in testing rose to 3% this week, up from 2.5% the week prior.
The travel advisory is updated every Tuesday, with any changes taking effect the following Friday.