With Chicago and suburban Cook County back under an elevated COVID alert level, health officials are reiterating precautions to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, especially with more gatherings planned through the end of the year.
Both Chicago and Cook County shifted from "low" to "medium" community level status Friday following a rise in metrics, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
“(The CDC) They saw an increase in COVID-19 activity,” said Dr. Juanita Mora who is an allergist and immunologist for the Chicago Allergy Center.
She said it’s more than just COVID affecting Chicagoans, however.
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“The medium risk level right now is for both COVID-19 and for influenza and we are already seeing tons of RSV,” said Mora.
Following Thanksgiving gatherings, Mora predicts a surge in all three viruses. Marginalized communities, such as Chicago's Black and Latino communities, are expected to be affected the most.
"They were the two communities with the lowest vaccination rate, and it still stands today, which means there is a lot of work to continue doing in these communities," stated Mora.
Health officials urge everyone to take precautions following the uptick in metrics.
"If you are traveling back home or going to any outdoor event, making sure you mask,” said Mora. “Making sure everyone in the family six months and older gets their COVID-19 vaccine and their flu shot as well."
Whether or not you decide to get the shot or wear a mask, it's highly recommended you stay home if feeling sick.
Free COVID vaccines are available at pharmacies across Chicago and the suburbs, including CVS and Walgreens. Mora encourages people who haven't been vaccinated to get their shots now, because they could potentially cost $80 starting Jan. 1.
Anyone looking for information on where to get a COVID vaccine in Chicago is encouraged to head to the city's online Vaccine Finder.