Cook County is once again at a high COVID-19 alert level.
The county had dropped from the high to medium level June 16, but a slight increase in hospitalizations reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday pushed it back over the CDC’s high threshold.
“I do expect again next week that we’ll drop back to medium, and potentially even to low,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told City Council’s Committee on Health and Human Relations on Monday.
The county’s levels of new positive COVID-19 cases and new hospitalizations are only slightly above levels designated medium. Per 100,000 people, Cook County is experiencing 202 new cases and 10.2 hospitalizations. The CDC sets high thresholds at 200 new cases and 10 hospitalizations.
Chicago remains in the medium level with fewer new cases and hospitalizations than Cook County. Other city COVID-19 indicators remain stable, city health officials said. DuPage and Lake counties are currently experiencing high transmission rates.
[ From June 16: Most of Chicago area returns to medium COVID-19 level as cases and hospital rates drop ]
City officials urged Cook County residents to wear masks in public, especially indoors and in crowded spaces, and to meet with others outside and social distance when possible.
“I know everyone wants COVID to be over,” Arwady said. “Unfortunately, we continue to see the COVID virus itself mutate quickly, with new, more contagious subvariants emerging every few weeks.”
Despite the changed designation, the city will not be reintroducing mask mandates or other requirements. That decision is in part an effort to make sure such stronger measures would be followed if future variants cause major spikes, Arwady said.
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“I want to save mandates for when we really need them,” she said. The city will continue to promote vaccines and boosters, which have proved to be remarkably effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19, she added.
In Chicago, the seven-day average of new cases had dropped to 653 on Friday, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. That same figure had been at 832 a week earlier, and during the peak of the omicron surge in January reached nearly 7,000, the highest since the pandemic began in early 2020.
The city’s positivity rate jumped from 6.4% to 10.7%, a spike that may be related to a sharp decrease in testing associated with the end of the school year.
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The country has seen a slight increase in the number of counties at either high or medium levels over the last week, the Chicago Public Health Department said. The bulk of high- and medium-level counties are in the West and Florida.
Vaccinations and boosters are strongly advised to guard against serious illness and hospitalization. Children from 6 months to 5 years old are eligible for the vaccine.