Several suburban Chicago communities are seeing increased transmission of COVID-19, but metrics would have to get significantly worse before any mandates or protocol changes would be implemented, health experts tell NBC 5.
Both Lake and DuPage counties are among the five Illinois counties that are considered to be at a “medium community transmission” level, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both communities are seeing more than 200 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents per week, but neither have seen large increases in hospitalizations or hospital bed occupancy related to COVID, and as a result experts don’t foresee a return to mask mandates or other protocol changes.
“For us to even consider a mandate versus strong recommendations, we would really have to see an increased strain on our health care and our medical facilities,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said.
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The CDC officially recommends that when an area is at “medium” community-level spread, that those at high-risk of severe illness speak to their health care provider about wearing masks and taking other precautions.
When an area is at a “high” community-level spread, then it’s recommended that all residents wear masks, and that additional precautions may be needed for those at high-risk of severe illness.
A county’s transmission risk status is determined by three different metrics: it’s number of new COVID cases per 100,000 residents, its percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID patients, and its new COVID admissions per 100,000 residents per day.
To fall into the “medium” category, a county must be averaging over 200 new cases per 100,000 residents per week, more than 10 new COVID-19 admissions per week, or more than 10% hospital occupancy.
DuPage and Lake counties are nowhere near hitting the latter metrics, but they are both over 200 cases per week.
As of Thursday, DuPage County is at 258.64 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents. Its new COVID admissions per 100,000 residents is at 5.7, while it’s percentage of staffed beds occupied by COVID patients is at 1.8%.
Lake County is at 212.19 cases per 100,000 residents. 5.7 new admissions per 100,000 residents, and a 1.8% staffed bed usage.
Even with hospital bed usage still at relatively low levels, officials in DuPage County say that they are keeping a careful eye on metrics.
“Any increase in numbers is not the direction we want to go,” Karen Ayala, director of the DuPage County Health Department, said. “But we’re not seeing the steep increase and sustained steep increase.”
In addition to extra steps for those with compromised immune systems or other risk factors, health officials have several other recommendations for residents as cases increase, including getting booster shots and spending time outdoors when possible as the weather improves.
“Get outside and increase outside air when you’re indoors,” Ayala suggested. “Those things are all effective.”
Even with numbers largely remaining steady at this time, officials say that the impacted counties could be in the “medium” risk category for quite some time.
“My hunch is it’ll level out at some point. It will dip, but we could have another one,” Rubin said. “But it will probably not result in serious injury or significant deaths.”