While hospitalizations have remained largely steady in Chicago in recent weeks, it appears that the area is at risk of moving up to a “medium community level” of COVID-19 soon, the city’s top doctor says.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, told viewers during her “Ask Arwady” session on Tuesday that the city will likely move to a “medium level” of the virus as soon as this week.
“I do anticipate, really, probably this week or next Chicago will move to that medium level,” Arwady said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cook County is seeing 190.44 new weekly COVID cases per 100,000 residents, just under the 200 per week threshold that would move the county into the “medium community level” category.
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The city of Chicago itself reports that it is seeing 709 new cases per day, which is up 18% from a week ago. That represents 183.4 new weekly cases per 100,000 residents.
The CDC will update its data on Thursday, which could potentially put Chicago and Cook County into the “medium” category, a move that Arwady says won’t necessarily mean more restrictions.
“If we move to medium, it’s not like the sky is falling,” she said. “There will be no major changes coming. We just want to put a brake on some of those transmissions.”
Arwady says that mask recommendations will not return with a move to a “medium community level,” but said that residents should consider wearing masks when gathering indoors. That recommendation would also apply to those residents traveling to other places that are at a “medium” risk factor at this time.
“For anyone traveling to a county that is medium risk, we really recommend you consider wearing a mask in indoor places, and if it’s high risk, definitely you’ve got to wear a mask in the indoor places,” she said.
Despite the increases in cases, hospitalizations have remained steady, and even trended slightly downward, in recent days. According to city officials, Chicago is averaging 12 new hospitalizations per day because of COVID. That is down 4% from a week ago, and the city is seeing 0.4 new admissions per 100,000 residents per day.
That adds up to 2.8 new admissions per 100,000 residents per week. Under CDC guidelines, any area that is seeing 10 or more new weekly admissions per 100,000 residents would be at a “medium community level” risk of COVID transmission, meaning that Chicago would be well below that threshold.
Health officials in other communities have warned that metrics could remain in the “medium transmission” level for the foreseeable future, but that there are no observable rapid spikes in cases that could indicate an even worse surge.
“Any increase in numbers is not the direction we want to go, but we’re not seeing the steep increase and sustained steep increase,” Karen Ayala, director of the DuPage County Health Department, said.