The Chicago Department of Public Health is urging residents who travel to areas of the country deemed medium or high COVID-19 risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to follow precautions, according to a travel advisory update Friday.
CDPH issued recommendations following the latest update to the CDC's county-by-county community levels map, which categorizes 4.4% of counties in the U.S. and Puerto Risk as medium or high risk for COVID.
Most states still have low COVID-19 levels, according to health officials but some states, such as Arkansas, Maine, Montana, New York and South Dakota, have large clusters of medium-to-high COVID-19 levels.
Those who are age 5 or older and aren't up to date with COVID vaccinations should avoid traveling to areas listed as high risk, according to the recommendations. Unvaccinated individuals who decide to travel should follow CDC guidance upon returning to Chicago, which includes quarantining for 5 days following travel and taking a COVID test 3 to 5 days after returning.
In medium risk areas, people should "consider wearing a mask in indoor public spaces," according to health officials. While in communities deemed high risk, people are advised to wear a mask in such settings.
This week, 19 counties have high risk community levels, a slight increase from 17 counties last week. Overall levels have improved in the past several days, with 163 listed as medium to high risk last week, compared to 142 this week.
Parts of Illinois and other states in the Midwest are among those said to be at medium or high risk.
As of Friday, Gallatin, Hardin, Pope and Saline counties were deemed to be in the high risk category, meaning masks are recommended. Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota all have at least one county listed as either medium or high risk.
Even as COVID metrics have climbed in Chicago, masks still aren't necessary, health officials say.
Cases have risen 28% in the last week, but hospitalizations have declined 38%, with just seven Chicagoans on average being hospitalized with COVID per day as of Thursday.
The community spread also remains low, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
“We continue to see cases, but overall the outbreak remains in good control,” Arwady said.