Chicago's top doctor urged residents to not invite anyone into their homes or apartments as the city experiences multiple coronavirus "warning signs" and enters what officials are calling a "second surge" in the pandemic.
"Please do not invite anyone over to your house or apartment," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday. "This is not the time for non-essential gatherings, period."
Arwady's comments come as city officials held a press conference to "sound the alarm" on rising metrics across Chicago.
Currently, Chicago is reporting an average of more than 500 new coronavirus cases daily, the "highest daily rate since the tail end of the first surge at the end of May," officials said.
As of Monday, Chicago was seeing a 7-day rolling average of 508 new cases per day, according to the city's coronavirus data dashboard. That marks a significant increase from the roughly 300 new cases per day rolling average the city was seeing just three weeks earlier when restrictions were eased.
The numbers also coincide with a 25% increase in non-ICU COVID-19 hospitalizations since Sept. 22, according to city data.
"This is the second surge that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Arwady have been warning about since March," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "And we are now in it."
Health officials said numbers in Chicago show that a majority of coronavirus patients know the person who gave it to them. According to data, two out of every three Chicagoans diagnosed knew the person who became the source of their infection. A majority of those infections came from interactions within a home, Arwady added.
"The virus is just looking for opportunities to spread," Arwady said.
Arwady pleaded with residents to wear masks, even while inside homes and to not invite people into homes who don't already live there, unless they must come for essential reasons.
"We are in the beginning of a second surge here and now is the time to do the things we have in our arsenal," Arwady said.
Meanwhile, Chicago could see the return of some restrictions in the coming days if the city's coronavirus metrics continue rising.
"To further fight the spread of COVID-19, the city is considering additional measures in the coming days, including bringing back restrictions on businesses," a release from the mayor's office read Monday.
Lightfoot warned that if the numbers continue rising, the city could see returns to phase three restrictions.
"We will not hesitate to take the steps to save our city and save our residents," she said.
She said while the surge is not surprising, she attributed it largely to the fact that "COVID thrives in enclosed spaces."
"We've been talking about these kinds of risks now from the very beginning," she said.
Lightfoot and Arwady last month announced that the city would ease some of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses, including restaurants, among other major changes.
The changes that took effect on Oct. 1 included increasing indoor capacity at restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments from 25% to 40%.
Bars, breweries, taverns and other businesses that serve alcohol without a food license could also open indoor seating - shut down since late July - at 25% capacity up to 50 people, officials said.
The city has been in phase four of its reopening plan since June 26, when some of the earlier restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus were gradually lifted.
Then on July 24, city officials changed course to shut down indoor bar service, reduce capacity limits at fitness classes and heighten other restrictions as the city continued to see an increase in its average number of daily new cases.