Chicago officials have recommended everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, but on Sunday said there are "no plans to shut down" the city again as COVID-19 metrics continue to rise.
“In Chicago, we can be open and be careful,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference Sunday. “We have no current plans to shut down Chicago again.”
Chicago passed a key threshold Friday when the average number of daily new COVID cases surpassed 200 per day, officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last week to recommend that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing "substantial" or "high" transmission of COVID-19.
More than 200 new daily cases in Chicago puts the city in the "sustantial" transmission category, officials said, and while that figure has been increasing steadily for weeks, it's still far below the numbers seen in the previous surges of the pandemic.
And hospitalizations, while also increasing, are still staying at a “low transmission” level, with an average of eight new admissions per day, according to Arwady.
As a result, Arwady and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday that they have no plans to implement more regulations and mitigations against COVID, and are instead leaning on the new CDC guidance that everyone should resume wearing masks indoors.
“Being careful means getting vaccinated. When you get vaccinated, first and foremost you are protecting yourself,” Arwady said. “When our numbers are higher, you put on a mask. When you put on a mask, you predominantly are protecting others. These two things working together help us to be careful as a city, and to stay open.”
Arwady says that the new mask guidance is not a “forever” thing, and that she knows it feels like a step backward to wear masks again after mandates were lifted, but that it is the right thing to do to protect children and other unvaccinated individuals.
“I know it’s hard, especially for people who are vaccinated, to feel like they have to put a mask on. It feels like we’re taking a step backwards, but when you do that, you help protect people who have not yet been vaccinated,” she said. “It is not forever that we are making this mask recommendation for. It helps protect you, your family, and all of Chicago.”
Lightfoot continued to push for individuals to get vaccinated, saying that it is the surest path toward a return to normalcy in the city.
“This is entirely preventable,” she said. “We have the tools we need. We need people to mask up and vaccinate. As we’ve seen, not only in Chicago but across the world and across the country, the delta variant is real. It is vicious, and attacks those who are not vaccinated.”
Officials are urging residents to set up at-home appointments for COVID vaccines, which are free and available to all residents who are eligible to receive the treatment.