Four additional locations were removed from Chicago's travel advisory this week, dropping the list of places on the city's warning list to 41 states and two territories.
Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Mississippi have all dropped below the city's threshold for being under an "orange" category on the travel advisory, the city's health department announced Tuesday.
This marks the latest round of removals after Florida, Hawaii and the District of Columbia dropped off the advisory last week.
As many as eight additional states or territories - Alabama, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and the Virgin Islands - could come off the advisory next week, the health department said.
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"What we're seeing here is that overall the country is definitely improving," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday.
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.
“If you are traveling, whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated – especially if you are unvaccinated – please do not take COVID lightly,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “We still have a long way to go before we can all confidently travel safely throughout the country. COVID is a threat to everyone – but the threat is reduced tremendously if you are vaccinated.”
States and territories currently on the advisory include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, 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, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
Just before the Labor Day, the city 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.
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 285 per day - down 4% from the previous week.
That figure is still much higher than the low of 34 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 52% from the previous week and deaths are down 57% from the week prior, per the city's data. The positivity rate in testing dropped to 1.6% this week, down from 2% the week prior.
Arwady noted last month that about 99% of new COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated individuals.
The travel advisory is updated every Tuesday, with any changes taking effect the following Friday.