As coronavirus cases continue to rise both in Illinois and in the rest of the country, Chicago has revived its travel warnings, and more high-profile businesses are requiring their employees to get vaccinated.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, daily coronavirus cases in the United States have more than doubled in recent weeks, rising from an average of 11,300 new cases per day on June 28 to 23,600 per day as of Monday.
All but two states – Maine and South Dakota – reported that case numbers have risen in the last two weeks, with experts blaming lagging vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
In Chicago, a new travel order has been put into place, with travelers from Missouri and Arkansas now subjected to additional scrutiny upon arrival in Chicago. Those travelers are being asked to prove that they are COVID-negative within 72 hours of arrival, or to quarantine for 10 days when they get to Chicago.
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The city is also closely watching growing case rates in Florida, Louisiana, Utah, Wyoming and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to officials.
Elsewhere in Illinois, coronavirus cases are beginning to rise, including in southwestern Illinois near St. Louis. There, positivity rates have more than quadrupled in the last month, now well above 7% according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Other regions are also seeing elevated positivity rates, as well as increases in the number of COVID hospitalizations.
“The virus knows no boundaries,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Between Missouri and Illinois, people work in one and live in the other.”
As COVID cases rise, and as fears of a new surge in delta-variant cases continue to grow, some companies and universities are mandating that their employees receive their coronavirus vaccinations, including the University of Chicago Medical Center.
They are now the second major medical center to mandate the vaccine, and students at the school will also be required to be vaccinated this fall. Exemptions will be given due to religious beliefs or health reasons, according to the school.
“If we allow the virus to keep infecting in places where vaccinations and immunity are suboptimal, the virus might find a way to escape the immunity generated by the vaccinations,” Northwestern University professor Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo said.
He says that while increases seem to be occurring among unvaccinated individuals, and while vaccines remain highly effective against variants, residents still need to remain cautious, as the continued infections will allow new variants to develop.
“Now that restrictions are dropped, people are moving freely,” he said. “In areas where vaccination is now high, it’s like the beginning of the pandemic.”