More than half of Illinois' counties, including all in the Chicago area except for two, were listed at "high" COVID-19 community level status Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Based on the latest federal data, 57 Illinois counties are now rated at "high" community level status, which is technically a slight decline from the week prior. Data released July 21 showed 58 counties were categorized at that level.
Last week, when the city of Chicago and Cook County were listed at "high" once again, the city issued a travel warning, urging people to be aware of the current COVID-19 spread and to take proper precautions.
At the "high" level, the CDC recommends that all people in the area wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. Those who are immunocompromised, the CDC suggests avoiding "non-essential indoor activities" in public places.
Of all 102 counties in Illinois, 87 are either at a "medium" or "high" status.
In the Chicago area, Cook, including the city of Chicago, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties were all said to be at "high" community level status. Only Kankakee and LaSalle counties were deemed "medium."
“The data tells us that COVID-19 is still with us and still spreading,” Illinois Department of Public Health Acting Director Amaal Tokars said last week. “The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus is to be up-to-date on vaccines and booster shots. If you have been waiting to get a vaccine, booster or a second booster, please don’t wait any longer. Get up to date. Safe and effective vaccines are widely available at no cost for everyone in Illinois who is at least 6 months old."
Under the guidelines released by the CDC, a county is considered to be at a “high" community level of COVID when its average number of weekly cases per 100,000 residents rises above 200, and when it either is averaging 10 weekly COVID hospital admissions or when it’s seeing 10% or more of its hospital beds occupied by COVID patients.
Counties that do reach a "high" community level are urged to reinstate mask-wearing for all individuals indoors regardless of vaccination status and to consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities. For a "medium" community level, the designation means elderly or immunocompromised individuals are urged to wear masks in public indoor spaces.
Here's what the CDC recommends for individuals in "high" level regions:
- Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status (including in K-12 schools and other indoor community settings)
- If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease
- Wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection
- Consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed
- Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to take other precautions (e.g., testing)
- Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
- Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies
- If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease
- consider self-testing to detect infection before contact
- consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
- Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
- Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19