Thinking of traveling for spring break?
Chicago's top doctor urged residents to think twice, unless they are fully vaccinated.
"My strongest piece of advice is, please do not travel until you are fully vaccinated - two weeks post your second vaccine," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "And that is doubly true if you're planning to travel internationally, because the US has done by far the most vaccines of any country in the world."
Even those who are vaccinated, Arwady said, should continue wearing masks and maintaining their distance.
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Arwady's advice comes on the heels of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Monday again advised against travel.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, warned spring break travel could lead to a rise in infections could rise.
"Now is not the time to travel," she said at a news conference.
Chicago updated its emergency travel order on Tuesday, moving multiple states between the yellow and orange tiers that dictate guidelines for travelers to quarantine or test negative for COVID-19 prior to their arrival in the city.
The "orange tier," which requires a quarantine or pre-arrival negative test before coming to Chicago, now includes 26 states, while the lesser yellow tier now includes 23 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Fully vaccinated travelers are not included under the order.
Meanwhile, Miami Beach officials declared a state of emergency and ordered a rare curfew over the weekend, an effort to avoid spreading COVID-19 and stop large crowds and unruly behavior in the popular tourist destination, CNBC reports.
"Bottom line is delay that travel, especially international travel, until you are fully vaccinated, your risks go down a lot," Arwady said. "And then when you're in public spaces, if you're on the airplane, if you're in the airport, if you're, you know, in another setting, anywhere where you don't know everybody around you has been fully vaccinated, please, please, please be extra careful with this."
As for parents who may be vaccinated but have children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, Arwady said as long as all adults traveling with the children are fully vaccinated she "would not have a major concern."
"If you have a child who really has a risk for severe outcomes, we do want to continue to protect that child and traveling would be of concern for them," she said. "But it's it's mostly about making sure adults are fully vaccinated to wait to travel and then having everybody continue to do those things that matter."
Until children can be vaccinated, however, Arwady asked families "please don't have a lot of gatherings with children who can't be vaccinated yet."
COVID metrics in both Chicago and Illinois are beginning to show "signs of concern" as case numbers and positivity rates start to increase, a trend that mirrors the start of last fall's surge, health officials said, adding that a majority of cases are being seen in "young adult" populations.
"Unfortunately, these sorts of increases are just what we were seeing in October as we were starting to see the beginnings of what became our huge surge," Arwady said during a coronavirus update Tuesday. "It was really the same case rates and younger adults that started this."
Her comments were echoed in part by Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who said Tuesday that the state is "seeing some concerning plateaus and even increases in hospitalizations and cases."
“Even as we’re getting more and more vaccine doses, we cannot let our guard down, especially with these virulent new strains circulating,” Ezike said in a statement. “We’ve come so far and are so close to a more normal time, but we’re already seeing some concerning plateaus and even increases in hospitalizations and cases. We’re not out of the woods yet so continue to wear your masks, avoid large crowds, and keep six feet of distance.”
Health officials in Illinois on Wednesday reported 2,793 new coronavirus cases and 20 additional deaths, along with more than 107,000 vaccinations in the past 24 hours.
"I've been to this movie before and seen, you know, the rising positivity rates," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday. "And I'm concerned about it and I've been saying all along, even as we have addressed the mitigations and tried to lower mitigations here or there, I've said we got to be careful about the variants. And I am concerned, I must tell you, you know, as I see numbers go up, is that the variants or is it a blip in the data? You know, what is it exactly? So we'll keep watching very closely, but I can tell you there is more activity going on and I think people maybe are being a little less careful, and I want to remind everybody please keep your distance, please continue to wear your mask, please be respectful of others."
Arwady also noted that emerging variants of the coronavirus, believed to be more contagious, are still being reported across the city.
Most recently, on March 5, the Chicago Department of Public Health reported the city's first case of the Brazilian COVID-19 variant, which also marked the first such case in Illinois, according to health officials.
"We're seeing COVID variants spread in Chicago, and we are not testing every person who gets COVID for those variants, but we absolutely are seeing again that B.117 variant that first emerged in the U.K., that they're seeing a lot of in Michigan," she said. "We are also seeing more cases of it here in Chicago and we have seen some spread. And so, reminding people, you know, we're seeing cases from across the city, it doesn't matter where you live in Chicago, we continue to see cases emerging from every portion of Chicago, we continue to see people being hospitalized."