Chicago's vaccine mandate in place at bars, restaurants and gyms could be lifted "not that long from now" should the city continue to see COVID-19 metrics trending downward, according to Chicago's top doctor.
As the city sees coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations quickly decreasing, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook live event Thursday that she hears people asking when the vaccine requirement could be removed.
"Not next week, I will tell you that," Arwady said. "But if we continue to see the drops like we've been dropping, it would not be that long from now, I think."
According to the latest data from CDPH, cases are averaging 889 per day as of Thursday, which is a 47% drop from last week. Hospitalizations are also down 41% to 93 on average daily.
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Similarly, deaths in Chicago were down to 13 on average per day, which is down 48% from seven days ago, data showed. Last week, the positivity rate was 6.9%, whereas this week the city saw a 4.1% daily average as of Thursday.
“We’re not going to keep the vaccination requirement just because we like it. We’re keeping it because the risk remains higher at this point,” Arwady said at a City Hall news conference Tuesday. “And yeah, I am feeling confident that it will be able to come off relatively soon, and if we keep seeing a 50% drop week over week, that could be quite soon.”
When referring to Chicago's mask mandate, Arwady gave the same answer. However, neither she nor Mayor Lori Lightfoot has the power to make that decision.
The masking decision is up to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he’s “thrilled” with Illinois’ improvement after its largest ever case spike, but the governor hasn't put a timeline on a potential rollback of the precautionary measures that have defined his pandemic response.
As for Pritzker’s indoor mask mandate, the governor pointed to it as one reason Illinois is faring better than other Midwest states where positivity rates are still in the double digits while Illinois is back below 7%.
“We actually weathered [the Omicron surge] as well or better than most, and it’s because we’ve kept in place a mask requirement not only in schools with adults and kids, but also indoors,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference in Springfield. “I want to get rid of masks as fast as we can when it is feasible to keep people safe.”
“The declining numbers of people going into the hospital every day — it’s really plummeting, which I’m thrilled about,” Pritzker continued. “The better our hospitalization numbers look, the better all the other numbers look, the more likely it is that we can move to different mitigations or, you know, remove mitigations altogether.”
The biggest factor in improving those numbers, officials have said, is getting more people vaccinated and boosted. During the Omicron surge, unvaccinated Chicagoans have proven twice as likely to contract COVID compared to their fully vaccinated neighbors — and 10 times as likely to end up in a hospital bed.
Nearly 20% of eligible residents still haven’t gotten a shot.