Chicago and Cook County have moved from “low” to “medium” risk for COVID-19, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Friday, as cases continue to rise in the region.
Because of the move, CPDH officials “strongly recommend” wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces. Chicagoans are also encouraged to stay up to date on vaccinations and boosters, as well as test for the virus if symptoms appear.
“We have been expecting to reach the average level for some time now,” said CDPH Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady. “This is not a cause for concern as most cases at this time are mild and thankfully our COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths remain at or near unprecedented pandemic lows in Chicago. But that’s a reason for more caution and more care with masking, as more people in Chicago are infected with COVID right now.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines community levels of COVID as low, medium and high, based on cases, hospitalizations and hospital capacity over the past week.
In the past seven days, Cook County and Chicago together have recorded 259 COVID cases per 100,000 residents, pushing the area above the 200-case threshold for an average risk level.
However, to reach a high level of transmission, hospitalizations in the Chicago area would have to increase, the CDPH noted. Health officials said there was “little near-term risk” of reaching a high level and that new mandates are not imminent.
Therefore, although masks are now recommended in Chicago and Cook County, Arwady said a citywide mandate is not in place and will not be reinstated unless the area moves to a high risk level.
“With the way the current COVID variants are behaving, these are steps we would consider if we were to reach the high community level of COVID-19 – which we are not close to reaching in Chicago right now. But we obviously don’t want to come to that, and being more careful now will help us keep COVID in Chicago under control,” Arwady said.
She reminded that people can spread COVID two days before they develop symptoms, so masking is a strong form of protection right now.
Almost the entire Chicago area was experiencing average risk levels for the virus as of Friday, according to the CDC.
As of Friday, Cook, Kane, McHenry, Lake, DuPage, DeKalb, Kendall and Will counties were all listed under the CDC’s “medium community” alert level, the second-highest level on the CDC’s scale. At least six other counties in the state — including McLean, Logan, Sangamon, Douglas, Champaign and Winnebago counties — are also at that level.
Last week, only five counties were at the average community level.
Here’s what the CDC recommends for counties under a medium alert level:
As of Friday, no community was experiencing high transmission in Illinois, although several northeastern counties have achieved that designation.
Counties that achieve a high community level are urged to reinstate mask wearing for all people indoors, regardless of immunization status, and consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities.