April's Easter holiday on Sunday brings a sign of hope, as well as a warning of caution from Chicago's top doctor.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady reminded during a Facebook Live event that health officials recommend remote or outdoor gatherings and religious services to celebrate Easter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The preference is not to gather," Arwady said. "If you gather, please try to do it outside. Definitely keep them outside and be extra careful with anybody who's not fully vaccinated and/or has underlying conditions or is older and at high risk for those adverse outcomes."
The biggest concern, Arwady said, is the 18 to 29-year-old group and the 30 to 39 year-olds getting together for a celebration with people they may not typically see. She said these gatherings are becoming "safer," but continue to pose a high risk until more people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"You don't want your Easter celebration to turn into a contact tracing event, you really don't. And we don't," Arwady said.
She added that officials are working with religious groups across Chicago to create safer outdoor services while wearing face coverings.
By summer, Chicago could see a stronger return to normalcy, according to Arwady, with a potential return for larger events as long as vaccinations continue at the current rate.
"I promise, you know, by this summer, I'm feeling really optimistic about larger events and what we're going to be able to do," Arwady said. "We are we're going to be assuming vaccine supply increases, assuming people take it."
Whether celebrating alone or with family and friends, she advised that people go outside and celebrate springtime as a sign of hope amid the pandemic.
"I like to celebrate kind of spring at the same time that we're thinking about Easter and hope and with all the things that come with Easter celebrations, there is real hope," Arwady said. "At this time, for sure. It's just sort of hope, matched with some of the ongoing caution in the short term, and I know that's a hard message."
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Although COVID vaccinations continue throughout the city, Chicago saw an uptick of reported daily coronavirus cases Thursday at 519, which is up 41% from the prior week, based on city data.
Chicago officials also reported the city's seven-day rolling positivity rate was sitting at 4.6%, which is an increase from 3.4% last week.
Both Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Arwady urged are urging residents this week, especially younger ones, to continue to adhere to social distancing protocols and to wear their masks in public, saying that the end of the pandemic could be in sight if residents continue to stay vigilant.