coronavirus illinois

Cook County, Chicago Now Under ‘Medium' COVID Alert Level. What You Should Know

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will and Grundy counties are now all under the "medium community level" for COVID

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Chicago and Cook County are among several places in the Chicago area now under an elevated COVID alert level, but what does that mean for you?

The change comes with a new masking recommendation and some added guidelines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six Chicago-area counties are now under a "medium community level" for COVID. They include: Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will and Grundy.

Under CDC recommendations for counties at "medium" risk level, the elderly and immunocompromised are recommended to wear a mask in indoor public places and receive COVID vaccinations and booster shots, if eligible.

Chicago's health department also noted that anyone traveling to counties under a medium or high community level should mask in indoor public spaces.

Here's the guidance from the Chicago Department of Public Health:

CDPH recommends the following at Medium Community Level:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public settings where vaccine status is not known
  • Get tested if you have symptoms
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, follow all isolation guidance, including wearing a face mask
  • If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions

The six Chicago-area counties are among more than 30 counties statewide under the medium category, though the state continued to have no counties under the high level.

Once a county reaches a "high" alert level, masking is recommended for all in indoor public spaces.

Experts said the elevated COVID level, paired with an early surge in respiratory viruses, is concerning.

"We are already seeing influenza surging in the southern U.S., COVID is back on the increase as we move back into a Medium COVID level locally, and Chicago’s pediatric hospitals are already bursting with children seriously ill from other respiratory viruses, like RSV," CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “Families will be traveling and gathering indoors for the holidays, and I worry about that increased circulation of COVID-19 and flu, and especially the possibility of severe outcomes for those who remain unvaccinated or not up to date.”

Health officials are urging people to get their COVID boosters and flu shots ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and the expected rise in winter-related respiratory virus circulation, I urge all Chicagoans to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and get their flu shot now,” Arwady said.

While COVID cases and deaths have seen a decline over the previous week statewide, state health officials expressed added concerns over respiratory viruses "spreading rapidly" in Illinois and across the U.S.

“The U.S. is currently facing its highest flu hospitalization rate in a decade, with young children and seniors most at risk. Vaccines remain our best tools to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19 and flu. I strongly recommend all that have not gotten full protection from COVID-19 and the flu to get vaccinated right away. Both the new COVID-19 bivalent booster and the flu shot target the current strains of these viruses,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a statement.

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