Chicago Likely to Add ‘2 or 3' States Back to Travel Advisory Amid Rise in COVID Cases, Top Doctor Says

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Chicago will likely add two to three states back onto its travel advisory next week as some areas see a rise in coronavirus cases, the city's top doctor said Tuesday.

"We are doing very well right now here in Chicago but across the whole U.S., you know, cases actually are up a little bit, right, they're up 5 to 10% across the whole country," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live broadcast.

"And there are a number of states, two or three, that are likely to go back on our travel advisory, right, where they are actually having significant surges, not just of cases but of hospitalizations from COVID," Arwady continued in answering a question about mask mandates on public transportation.

Arwady's comments came exactly one week after Chicago turned its emergency coronavirus travel order into an advisory after no states were on the list requiring travel restrictions for the third consecutive update.

CDPH announced on June 29 that in more than a month, no state had reached the 15 cases per day per 100,000 residents threshold, which would be the "orange" tier in which unvaccinated travelers are required to quarantine or provide a negative COVID test upon arrival in the city.

The last time a state had reached the orange tier was May 18, the department said, and all U.S. states and territories remained in the less restrictive "yellow" tier of the travel order.

The travel order shifted to an advisory as a result, but the city said the emergency guidelines can be reinstated at any time "if significant surges are seen in any state."

Chicago's travel advisory is slated to next be updated on July 13, with any changes taking effect that Friday. It was not immediately clear if any states added back to the advisory would reinstate the quarantine or negative testing requirements of the previous order.

In later answering a question about travel, Arwady flagged at least one state that is above that "orange" tier threshold as she shared that her process for making recommendations on travel includes consideration of the spread of COVID-19 in the particular area one might be thinking about visiting.

"When I am helping people make these decisions individually, I sometimes actually take a look at the area where someone's going to be traveling to have a sense of that," she said.

Arwady recommended researching each state or region's rolling average number of new cases per day, adjusted for population, as well as trendlines in how much new cases have gone up or down in a particular area in recent days before deciding to travel there.

"Wisconsin looks really good up here," she said, highlighting that the state was seeing fewer than 10 cases per day per 100,000 people.

"And that's generally flat over the last 14 days; they're not having a big surge, would not have a major concern," she said. "If, though, you were like, 'Should I go to a funeral that's down, you know, in Springfield, Missouri, here?' I would have some worry because Missouri and Arkansas, parts of western Colorado, Nevada, are having some trouble."

Arwady said the state of Arkansas was up to 17 cases per 100,000 people per day. That figure is above the 15 case threshold and would be the equivalent of Chicago seeing more than 400 or 450 cases a day, Arwady said, calling that "back in… worrisome range." Cases in Arkansas have also gone up 121% and hospitalizations are up 42%, she added.

"I would have some worry, like if I were going to travel to Arkansas, I would be putting a mask on, right, like I think especially if there were someone who I was particularly concerned about," she said, adding that Arkansas and Missouri are two of the county's "least vaccinated" states and among the states seeing the highest increases in cases.

"Florida and Nevada are having a little bit of trouble too, up 63% in Florida. But then, you know, most of the country continues to do reasonably well here, we're seeing some big increases: Nebraska is up 137%, South Carolina 145%," Arwady said. "But the numbers are still pretty low and low numbers mean, you know, the chance of being exposed to somebody is still on the lower side."

Arwady said Illinois is "doing really well," averaging two cases per 100,000 people.

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