Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was "sounding the alarm" Tuesday due to a recent uptick in coronavirus cases across the city.
Citing a rise in both average daily cases and test positivity in Chicago largely attributed to the delta variant, Lightfoot said that while numbers are still well below the spikes seen during the peak of the pandemic, "it's still a concerning development that we want to not only stay ahead of, but to quash completely."
"If we allow the virus to continue to linger here in Chicago we will likely see further mutations, some of which our current vaccines may not be able to protect against and have to reinforce some of the restrictions that have come to infamously define much of 2020, and part of 2021," Lightfoot said during a coronavirus update alongside city health officials. "The reality is this scenario - the worst case - is entirely preventable, and that's because we have three different vaccines readily available to all of our residents, which offer very good protection against delta, and other new variants."
Lightfoot's remarks come at a time where the average daily number of new cases in Chicago is up to 90 per day - a 69% increase over last week.
The city's average daily case rate was at 41 per day the week before that, meaning it's more than doubled in roughly two weeks - though it is still significantly lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing earlier this year and last, before vaccines were widely available.
Hospitalizations and deaths are down in Chicago - 11% and 13%, respectively, since last week - but the positivity rate in testing is up to 1.5% from 1% last week.
"I know a lot of you have hoped that COVID was behind us that you wouldn't see us up here talking again about numbers rising, you wouldn't hear that the positivity is back on the increase, that you wouldn't be hearing more updates the travel advisory, but unfortunately that's not the situation that we're in," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
She added that the she expects the delta variant will be the dominant variant in Chicago by next month "for sure."
Public health officials in Chicago and around the world have warned about the more transmissible delta variant, urging those who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so.
As of Tuesday, more than 2.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in Chicago, with 51.3% of Chicagoans fully vaccinated and 57.3% with at least one dose, according to the city's data.
"We can't allow it to spread further or faster than it already has," Lightfoot said. "And it already has incredible momentum. If we don't stall this, we'll have to wait that much longer to be able to formally turn the page on COVID-19 and put this pit pandemic in the past, in the rearview mirror."