Two states and one territory were removed from Chicago's travel advisory Tuesday, bringing the number of states on the city's warning list to 38 states following the Thanksgiving holiday.
California, Guam, and North Carolina were all removed from the advisory this week, the city's health department announced, but no new states were added back on.
As of Tuesday, every state or territory except for Alabama, California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the Virgin Islands are on the advisory.
Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington could be removed from the travel advisory next week if their COVID rates remain below the city's threshold.
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.
“The best protection you can have against COVID, no matter where you travel or what new variants emerge, is full vaccination, and booster shots for those who are fully vaccinated,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “The Midwest is the current COVID hot spot as temperatures drop and people spend more time inside, so please protect yourself and get vaccinated.”
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 dropped to 493 per day - down 18% from the 599 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 37% from the previous week, and deaths dropped by 84% since last week, per the city's data. The positivity rate in testing rose to 3.5% this week, up from 3% the week prior.
The travel advisory is updated every Tuesday, with any changes taking effect the following Friday.