Illinois coronavirus: Chicago, suburbs back to low COVID-19 risk level: CDC

For the first time in nearly five months, Chicago’s COVID-19 risk level is considered low by federal standards as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to decline gradually in most of Illinois.

The statewide map that was orange for much of the summer — indicating a high level of transmission as determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is now a deep green in Cook County and its collars, officials said Friday.

The “low” designation means that most residents can safely communicate with others indoors without a face covering, although masks are still recommended on public transport and for anyone exposed to a person with COVID.

The transmission of COVID-19 is considered low in the provinces marked green, medium in the provinces marked yellow, and high in the provinces marked orange.

The transmission of COVID-19 is considered low in the provinces marked green, medium in the provinces marked yellow, and high in the provinces marked orange.

Illinois Department of Health

In addition to staying up to date with vaccinations, experts are still urging residents to exercise caution.

“COVID is still with us, and the health care system and other institutions serving more vulnerable Chicago residents can maintain mask policies,” said Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady in a statement.

And the basic principles of the pandemic still apply, Arwady said: “Stay home if you are sick and get tested for COVID. Consider wearing a well-fitting mask such as a KN95 in busy indoor environments, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness. Ask your doctor about COVID antiviral medications if you do get sick. And, most importantly, get your vaccines up to date before the cold weather kicks in.”

Chicago and Cook County rose from “low” to “average” levels in early May, then fluctuated between “average” and “high” levels over the summer when the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants of COVID flared up across the country.

The number of cases in Chicago has fallen 27% in the past week, with about 372 people testing positive each day, not counting home tests. Hospital admissions in the city have fallen about 32% since last week, with 24 COVID patients entering the wards per day.

Those encouraging patterns have also played out statewide. The state has reported an average of 2,482 new cases per day in the past week, down 32% from a month ago. Hospitals treated a total of 1,069 COVID patients on Thursday night, a 22% drop from last month.

New COVID-19 cases per day

Graphics by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Chart not displayed correctly? Click here.

Three counties in the downstate are still at the high risk level, and 33 are at medium risk, according to the CDC.

Meanwhile, Illinoisans are rolling up their sleeves for COVID vaccinations in the largest numbers since last winter. About 19,000 doses of the new bivalent booster — redeveloped to fight the latest versions of the virus — have gone into battle every day for the past week.

“This is an encouraging sign as we enter the fall season and face a potential increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Illinois director of public health in a statement. These vaccines are especially important for those most vulnerable to serious illness, such as those over the age of 50, those with underlying medical conditions, and those who are immunocompromised.”

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