Chicago Announces Changes to Travel Advisory Format Beginning Friday

Following changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city said it will instead categorize counties and locations as low, medium or high risk, based on data provided by the CDC

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Starting later this week, Chicago's travel advisory will look different as city officials announced plans to change how the advisory is structured.

Following changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city said it will instead categorize counties and locations as low, medium or high risk, based on data provided by the CDC. Residents will need to check the map for the latest information prior to travel.

“Chicago’s Travel Advisory was always meant to be used by Chicagoans as a tool to help make informed decisions about travel based on their individual and local COVID-19 risk,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. “As we enter this new phase of the pandemic, it’s important for us to remember that all risk is local – and by aligning with the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels, we’re able to better recommend the prevention steps that align with the specific risk.”

The CDC late last month unveiled a county-by-county community level map and announced a shift in metrics that gives more weight to hospitalizations and hospital capacity instead of case numbers.

In medium risk areas, people at high risk for severe illness are encouraged to talk to their health care provider about whether they should wear a mask and take other precautions, according to the CDC. For communities deemed high risk, people should wear masks in public indoor spaces, including schools, and take additional precautions if at risk for severe illness.

Prior to the upcoming change, states were 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.

City officials said, beginning Friday, Chicago’s Travel Advisory will be updated every Friday to align with the release of the updated CDC COVID-19 Community Level data.

"ALL travelers should check the map so you know whether the areas you are traveling to are low, medium, or high risk for COVID-19," the health department said in a release.

Under the changes, areas shaded in green, or low risk, will not require any actions from travelers. Those in yellow, or medium risk, should consider wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, the guidelines state.

But for high risk, CDPH suggests the following:

  • Wear a mask in indoor public places.
  • Travelers who are age 5 or older who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines are advised to avoid travel to high-risk (orange) counties.

Unvaccinated Chicagoans age 5 or older who travel to high-risk (orange) counties, upon returning to Chicago are advised to follow CDC guidance:

  • Stay home and quarantine for 5 days after travel
  • Take a COVID test 3-5 days after return – if it is positive, stay home and follow CDC guidance.

ALL travelers are also advised to:

  • Ensure you are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines (including boosters) before any planned travel.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Consider packing an at-home COVID test in case you develop symptoms while traveling.

Officials noted that despite relaxed mitigations across the country, the TSA's mask mandate remains in place for public transportation and businesses may also still choose to require masks.

All Illinois counties were listed in the low category on the CDC's COVID-19 community level map Thursday, meaning masks can safely be removed.

Despite the changes to the advisory, the health department announced seven additional states were removed Tuesday.

Alabama, California, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon all dropped below the warning level threshold.

Last week, 16 states were dropped from the travel advisory as the spring break travel rush began.

The city noted that "given the delay for approval of vaccination for children under 5," children 5 years old and younger are exempt from the advisory, but only if the adults they are traveling with are vaccinated.

International travelers will be subject to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which requires that all travelers, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, get a negative COVID-19 viral test no more than one day before travel into the United States.  

This week's update to the travel advisory comes at a time when the average daily number of new cases in Chicago started to climb to 156, though it continues to remain well-below the 5,189 seen earlier this year.

That figure is still higher than the low of 34 the city saw in late June last year, however.

Hospitalizations are averaging 9.57 per day and deaths dropped to 0.71 per day, both marking significant decreases from the omicron peak earlier this year.

The positivity rate climbed slightly to 0.8%, up from 0.7% last week.

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