Chicago's travel advisory is set for an update Tuesday after the city noted in last week's guidance that two states could soon fall off the list if their metrics continue to decline.
Last week, the advisory was updated to include every U.S. state, making Vermont the final location to be added to the "orange" category on the city's warning list, which recommends unvaccinated travelers from such locations test negative for COVID-19 and quarantine.
In its update, however, city officials noted that two states – New Hampshire and Connecticut – as well as the District of Columbia, saw their case rates fall below that threshold as of Wednesday, but they were not yet removed from the advisory.
"If these states maintain these improved case rates, they will be removed from the Travel Advisory next Tuesday," the city said in its release. "States are removed from the Travel Advisory when they maintain a COVID case rate below 15 per 100,000 residents in two consecutive weeks."
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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.
Just before the Labor Day, the city also updated its guidance for what unvaccinated travelers visiting or returning from such locations should do, adding new testing and quarantining recommendations before and after travel.
Still, health officials urged unvaccinated people not to travel as cases continue to surge across the country.
“As a reminder, given the current surge across the country, unvaccinated Chicagoans should not travel right now if at all possible,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement last week. “Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to decrease your risk for COVID-19.”
According to the city, before travel, unvaccinated individuals should:
- Get tested 3-5 days prior to departure.
- 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 is down to 433 per day - a 10% decrease over the previous week, according to city data Tuesday.
That figure is still more than 12 times the low of 34 that the city saw in late June but remains lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing during the most recent surge earlier this year.
Hospitalizations in Chicago are down 30% from the previous week and deaths are flat from the week prior, per the city's data. The positivity rate in testing is down to 3.7% this week, a drop from 4.2% in the last week.
Arwady noted last month that about 99% of new COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated individuals.
States and Territories on the advisory include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The travel advisory will be updated every Tuesday, with any changes taking effect the following Friday.