Chicago Travel Advisory Jumps to 47 States, 2 Territories Days Before Christmas

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With COVID cases rising across the U.S. and the holiday travel rush already underway, Chicago's travel advisory has been updated once again, with a total of 47 states and two territories now on the city's warning list days before Christmas.

Five states were added to the city's list, along with Puerto Rico Tuesday, officials announced. They include Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Texas.

As of Tuesday, every state or territory except for Guam, Louisiana, South Carolina, and the Virgin Islands are on the Travel Advisory.

The only state eligible to come off the advisory next week is Montana, which remained below the threshold this week but will need to do so for two consecutive weeks in order to be removed, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

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 continuing rise of COVID-19 case rates across the country feels disheartening, but the odds are on your side many times over if you’re fully vaccinated – that means getting your booster shot,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “If you’re traveling over the holidays and you’re vaccinated, please get your booster shot as soon as you can. It gives you that extra level of protection that now, unfortunately, is necessary. And if you’re not vaccinated, especially now, you really shouldn’t be traveling.” 

Just before the Labor Day, the city updated its guidance for what unvaccinated travelers visiting or returning from locations on the advisory 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.

While traveling:

  • 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 climbed to 991 per day - up 79% from the previous week.

That figure is much higher than the low of 34 the city saw in late June and now exceeds the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing during the most recent surge earlier this year.

City data showed hospitalizations are up 12% from the previous week. Deaths are also up by 51% since last week, per the city's data. The positivity rate in testing rose to 7.3% this week, a sharp jump from the 4.2% reported the week prior.

The travel advisory is updated every Tuesday, with any changes taking effect the following Friday.

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