If Chicago reaches a “high” COVID alert level from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city will issue a mask advisory, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday, just ahead of the holiday weekend.
The CDC is expected to release its updated community levels Thursday evening. Last week, Chicago and Cook County were at “medium” risk.
“As of last week, Chicago and Cook County remain at the medium COVID-19 community level, based on metrics we’re tracking from the CDC,” Lightfoot said. “Cases, as many of you have already heard, are on the rise in our city and across the country. And we expect to hit high soon, maybe as early as this week, or next. And if we do, we won’t be alone. For example, other major cities such as New York and Los Angeles have already gone too high, and 43 counties in Illinois reached the high level in the week. If and when Chicago and Cook County have reached the high level, we will post a mask advisory.”
The advisory means the city will “require all Chicago residents age 2 and older to wear masks in indoor public places.”
“Not only will this protect you, but it will also protect those around you – including some of our most vulnerable elderly residents and those with weakened immune systems – preventing the spread of COVID now will also prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed by covid19 cases.”
Chicago’s top doctor had been predicting a transition to “high” alert for days.
“I think it’s likely that in a short period of time here we’ll probably go to high COVID levels. And last week 9% of counties reported high COVID levels, many of which are major cities where we have density and we have good testing,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday.
As COVID-19 cases have steadily increased in recent weeks, Arwady has also drawn increased attention to the current flu outbreak in the region.
“It’s not just COVID. With the flu, we’re having a banner year at this point in the year. It’s very unusual for us to see this much flu here in Chicago, Illinois and the United States. United in December,” Arwadi said.
Arwady added that most years the flu peaks in the Chicago area and across the country in January and February, making the magnitude of the virus’s large early presence a concern for public health experts.
Concern is particularly notable at the moment among children, with hospitals reaching a “crisis point” about two weeks ago due to this season’s lingering RSV outbreak. According to Arwady, pediatric beds were almost completely full at Lurie Children’s Hospital and other nearby pediatric units.
Although flu season is in full swing, Arwady said it’s definitely not too late to get the flu shot, while encouraging those who are eligible and have not yet received a bivalent booster COVID-19 to do so.
“Hot indoor environments are the perfect places, unfortunately, for possible virus transmission, which is why we want to remind all gatherings with loved ones over the next few days and weeks to enjoy each other’s company, but do do it safely,” Lightfoot said. .