Even as coronavirus cases continue to rise, Chicago health officials said they have no plans to "shut down" the city again as they again recommended residents wear masks and get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker decided not to attend Lollapalooza amid concern over rising COVID cases, reversing an earlier decision to attend the four-day music festival.
Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Every Chicago-Area County Except 1 Is Seeing ‘Substantial' COVID Transmission and Should Mask Indoors, CDC Says
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Every county in the Chicago area except one is seeing "substantial" community transmission of COVID-19, placing nearly the entire region in the category in which fully vaccinated people should resume wearing a mask indoors, federal health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last week to recommend that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing "substantial" or "high" transmission of COVID-19.
The new guidance marked a reversal from earlier recommendations that said fully vaccinated people could remove masks in most settings.
According to the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker, a map showing levels of community transmission for each county in the U.S., every county in the Chicago area except Kankakee County is seeing "substantial" transmission.
Most of Illinois' counties fall into either "substantial," labeled in orange, or "high" transmission, labeled in red. Kankakee and five other counties across the state are seeing "moderate" transmission, labeled in yellow, while just one on the western border of the state is seeing "low" transmission colored in blue.
How to Find Out if You're in an Area Where the CDC Recommends Masks Indoors
In which areas is the CDC recommending people wear masks indoors? The agency points to its COVID-19 data tracker showing levels of community transmission, along with other data, for each county in the U.S.
The agency uses a two measures to group U.S. counties into four levels of community transmission: the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive over the past week.
If a county has reported 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period or has a positivity rate of 8% to 10%, it falls into the "substantial transmission" tier, while those reporting 100 cases or more per 100,000 or have a positivity rate of at least 10% are labeled as "high transmission." Those are the two groups for which the CDC recommends mask-wearing.
Officials: ‘No Plans to Shut Down Chicago' Amid Uptick in COVID Cases
Even as coronavirus cases continue to rise, Chicago health officials say they have no plans to shut down the city again, saying that new mask recommendations and continued emphasis on vaccinations will be key to tamping down an uptick in new cases being driven by the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Both Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, echoed the same sentiments during a press conference Sunday: the city will remain open, while remaining careful.
“In Chicago, we can be open and be careful,” Arwady said. “We have no current plans to shut down Chicago again.”
“We can be open by also being careful,” Lightfoot later added.
According to officials, Chicago has passed a key threshold in terms of new daily COVID cases, averaging more than 200 new cases of the virus per day. Even still, those numbers are far below what the city saw in previous surges of the virus, and hospitalizations, while increasing, are also staying at a “low transmission” level, with an average of eight new admissions per day, according to Arwady.
As a result, officials say that they have no plans to install more regulations and mitigations against COVID, and are instead leaning on new CDC guidance that residents in areas of “substantial” or “high” transmission of COVID wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
‘It Is Not Forever': Chicago Officials Urge Residents to Wear Masks Amid COVID-19 Increases
Days after the city of Chicago and Cook County were deemed to have “substantial” transmission of COVID-19, triggering new recommendations that all residents wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, city officials are urging cooperation with the new guidelines, saying that they are a temporary step to helping tamp down on the delta variant-fueled spread of the disease.
“I know it’s hard, especially for people who are vaccinated, to feel like they have to put a mask on. It feels like we’re taking a step backwards, but when you do that, you help protect people who have not yet been vaccinated,” she said.
The city’s new recommendations mirror the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, which call for all individuals, regardless of whether they are vaccinated against COVID or not, to wear masks in areas where there is “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission of COVID-19.
Pritzker Skips Lollapalooza ‘Out of an Abundance of Caution' Amid Rising COVID Cases
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker publicly said he would attend Lollapalooza this weekend in Chicago, but later decided not to attend amid rising COVID cases in the state, his office said Sunday.
Pritzker said last week that he planned to attend the four-day music festival, but said Sunday that he would not, citing rising case numbers and a new CDC finding that vaccinated individuals can potentially transmit coronavirus to others.
“Out of an abundance of caution, with cases on a sharply increasing trajectory and with the CDC’s finding Friday that vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus, the governor did not attend Lollapalooza,” his press secretary said.
Lollapalooza a ‘Recipe for Disaster,' Doctors Say, Warning of COVID Spike After Festival
While Chicago officials remain hopeful Lollapalooza won't spur a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, infectious disease experts at Northwestern University are bracing for a jump in infections during the coming weeks.
"“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatrician and professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a news release. "You have people coming in all over from U.S., and even though the organizers are taking some efforts to mitigate infections, I don’t know how they’re going to enforce mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing..."
Despite an uptick in cases fueled by the delta variant, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Lollapalooza's own health experts decided it was safe to proceed with the festival, Mayor Lori Lightfoot previously said.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 11,682 New COVID Cases, 39 Deaths, 154K Vaccinations in the Past Week
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 11,682 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 39 additional deaths and more than 154,000 new vaccine doses administered.
COVID cases statewide have increased 46% over the last week, with hospitalizations up 35%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Intensive care unit admissions also increased by 24% and there was a 41% increase of COVID patients on ventilators.
In all, 1,419,611 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,440 confirmed COVID fatalities.
The state has administered 289,433 tests since last Friday, officials said, bringing the total to more than 26 million tests conducted during the pandemic.
The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests rose to 4% from 3.3% the week before and 1.9% two weeks prior. The rolling average seven-day positivity rate on individuals tested rose to 4.7%, up from 3.5% last week, officials said.
IDPH noted, however, that the regional seven-day positivity rate ranges from 2.8% to 9.5%.
Over the past seven days, a total of 154,447 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to Illinois residents. That brings the state’s average to 22,064 daily vaccination doses over the last week, down from the figures reported last Friday, per IDPH data.
State officials in Illinois have administered more than 13 million vaccine doses since vaccinations began in December. More than 58% of adult residents in the state are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with 74% receiving at least one dose.
As of midnight, 903 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID in the state. Of those patients, 167 are in ICU beds, and 62 are on ventilators. All three metrics are a reported increase since last Friday.
Cook County Updates Guidance to Recommend Masks Indoors Regardless of Vaccination Status
Cook County updated its guidance on masking and other COVID-19 precautions Friday, recommending everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as health officials say the region is seeing "substantial" community transmission.
The Cook County Department of Public Health issued new policies one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed the county into the "substantial" transmission category, triggering the CDC's recommendation to resume indoor masking under its new guidance released Tuesday.
In alignment with the CDC, CCDPH said it "strongly recommends" the following:
- Individuals over 2 years of age should wear a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.
- Fully-vaccinated people who have been exposed to someone who has suspected or confirmed COVID should be tested 3-5 days following the exposure and wear a mask indoors as above · Fully-vaccinated people may wish to mask outdoor in crowded settings. CCDPH fully endorses this action.
- Guidance has not changed for unvaccinated individuals: masks should be worn indoors and in crowded outdoor settings, regardless of the community transmission level.
CCDPH said it also continues to recommend its previous guidance that all people in school settings - teachers, staff, students, and visitors - should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status and community transmission level.
The department is also encouraging people to mask indoors or in crowded outdoor settings regardless of community transmission.
Masks are still required for everyone older than 2 on public transportation or at any indoor transportation hub, as well as in health care and long-term care settings, CCDPH said.
Pritzker Requires Masks for Everyone in Illinois State Buildings
Citing an increase in COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an order Thursday requiring that everyone who enters a state building wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status.
In a news release, Dr. Nzogi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, explained the masking directive adds another layer of protection for state employees and those Illinois serves.
“Vaccination is still the best protection against both the older and newer variants that cause COVID-19," she stated. "And until more people get vaccinated and transmission decreases, masking will help protect us all."
According to guidance released Thursday, state employees must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth while in a workplace or performing work duties in indoor settings outside of their residence, unless a medical condition prevents them from doing so. Employees are also advised to maintain physical distance of at least six feet "at all times or as much as reasonably possible."
Visitors over 2 years old are required to wear face coverings while inside state offices and facilities. An exception is made if individuals "are unable to medically tolerate a face covering," the guidance stated.
Illinois ‘Fully Aligns' With CDC's Updated Indoor Masking Guidance
The Illinois Department of Public Health is "fully adopting" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated masking guidance, the state's health department said Tuesday, recommending that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with substantial and high transmission.
IDPH also will follow the CDC's new recommendations for masking indoors at K-12 schools, recommending it be done universally among teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
"While data continues to show the effectiveness of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S., including against the Delta variant, we are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a statement, noting that COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, especially among those who are unvaccinated against the virus.
Chicago Travel Advisory: 9 States Added to List as COVID Cases Continue to Rise
Chicago updated its travel advisory Tuesday, adding nine additional states to the list recommending that anyone entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.
The city added nine states - for a total of 14 states and one territory - back to the advisory, which is updated each week.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming were all added Tuesday, the Chicago Department of Public Health said.
They join Florida, Louisiana and Nevada, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were added last week, plus Missouri and Arkansas which were added two weeks prior and all remain on the list.
Recent increases in COVID metrics pushed those newly added states over the threshold of 15 cases per day per 100,000 people to get onto the "orange" list. Any below that mark are on the "yellow" list, with public health officials still warning against non-essential travel.
Here's How the Delta Variant Symptoms Differ From the Initial COVID Strain
About 83 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been fueled by the delta variant, and as the surge continues, the number of associated cases is expected to rise even higher in the coming weeks, according to health officials.
Approximately one month ago, on June 19, the delta variant accounted for just over 30 percent of new cases. On July 3, it crossed the 50 percent threshold to become the dominant variant in the U.S. Public health experts nationwide have focused their efforts on encouraging vaccinations as most of those who've contracted the variant haven't been vaccinated.
Studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against multiple variants, including the delta variant. However, when it comes to symptoms, there appear to be key differences.
Delta Variant: What to Know About the New Coronavirus Strain Causing a Surge in COVID Cases
Public health officials are sounding alarm bells throughout the United States, as the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has led to a massive surge in cases in recent weeks.
What exactly is the delta variant? What makes it different from previous strains of the COVID-19 virus? Do vaccines protect you against it?
Here's an exhaustive list of what we know so far about the variant itself and what is being seen in Chicago and Illinois.