Chicago went from “low” to “medium” risk for COVID-19 transmission on Friday, so when might health officials reinstate restrictions like the mask mandate?
The Chicago Department of Public Health is now “strongly recommending” that people wear a mask in public and indoor spaces due to increased cases, but this does not mean there is a face covering requirement.
On Friday, CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said there is no citywide mandate and it will not be reset unless Chicago moves from the medium to high risk level. However, she reminded that people can spread COVID two days before they develop symptoms, so masking is a strong form of protection at this time.
“With the way current variants of COVID are behaving, those are measures we would consider if we were to reach the high community level of COVID-19, which we are nowhere near reaching in Chicago right now. But obviously we don’t want to get there, and exercising a little more caution now will help us keep COVID under control in Chicago,” Arwady said.
Chicago is recently at the medium risk level, though Arwady said health officials had expected the city to get to this point “for some time.”
“It is not a cause for alarm as most cases right now are mild and fortunately our COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths remain at or near all-time pandemic lows in Chicago,” Arwady said. “But it is reason for extra caution, and for extra care with masking, as more people in Chicago are infected with COVID right now.”
Chicagoans are also encouraged to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and booster shots, as well as get tested for the virus should any symptoms appear.
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.
Over the past seven days, Cook County and Chicago combined have recorded 259 COVID cases per 100,000 residents, pushing the area above the 200-case threshold for the medium risk level.
However, to reach a high level of transmission, hospitalizations in the Chicago area would need to increase, the CDPH said. Health officials said there is “little short-term risk” of reaching a high level and that new mandates are not imminent.
As of Friday, nearly the entire Chicagoland area was experiencing medium risk levels from the virus, according to the CDC.
As of Friday, Cook, Kane, McHenry, Lake, DuPage, DeKalb, Kendall and Will counties were included in the CDC’s “medium community” alert level, the second-highest level on the CDC scale. . At least six other counties in the state, including McLean, Logan, Sangamon, Douglas, Champaign and Winnebago counties, are also in this tier.
Last week, only five counties were in the middle tier of the community.
Here’s what the CDC recommends for counties with a medium alert level:
As of Friday, no communities were said to be experiencing high transmission in Illinois, although several counties in the Northeast had achieved that designation.
Counties that reach a high community level are urged to reinstate mask wearing for all people indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and to consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities.