As Illinois fully reopened Friday for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, Chicago's top doctor said she was confident it was the right time to move forward - but cautioned COVID isn't over just yet.
Speaking at an event to mark the city's full reopening, both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady touted significant improvements in COVID metrics, which they said allowed Chicago to join the rest of Illinois in entering the state's final reopening phase.
However, despite "historic lows" in metrics, they said Chicago's vaccination efforts aren't over just yet.
"We know that people are still dying every day from COVID," Lightfoot stated. "We know pieces of our city that have not seen the uptick in vaccines, particularly on our South Side. We haven't stopped. We are not gonna stop."
Some residents have expressed concerns that rollbacks of coronavirus restrictions could lead to surges in virus cases, but Arwady said she's “very confident” that case numbers are low enough to prevent a large surge from happening in the early stages of summer.
With an average of 79 cases reported daily, Arwady said the risk of contracting COVID is a "quite bit lower for everybody," even those who haven't been vaccinated.
Nonetheless, according to the doctor, a resurgence is possible, and if one were to occur, it would land in unvaccinated communities and social networks.
The commissioner previously said that there could be an increase in COVID cases later this year, as more people participate in indoor activities, particularly in the fall or winter months.
Hospitalizations and positivity rates in Illinois are at their lowest levels of the pandemic, with fewer than 800 people hospitalized because of the virus.
Chicago's positivity rate, which stands at 1.4% is also its lowest since the pandemic began.
According to Illinois Department of Public Health data, more than 54% of the state’s adult residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID, with more than 63% having received at least one COVID vaccine dose.
All COVID restrictions in Illinois were lifted Friday, with mask mandates remaining in place where required by federal and state law, according to state leaders. Restrictions could be restored if metrics begin to rise again, officials said.