CHICAGO (CBS) — Public health officials said Friday that Chicago is on pace to move to Phase 4 of reopening the economy next month, although the city will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 outbreak to see if there is a rise in cases over the next few weeks after moving into Phase 3 last week.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said officials will be monitoring several metrics to determine if the city can move to the next phase of reopening; including the rate of new cases, positive test rates, hospital capacity, and testing capacity.READ MORE: Watchdog Report Says CPD Has Taken Few Steps To Fix Problems With Records Management In Court Cases
“COVID-19 has not gone away. We’re not out of this,” Arwady said Friday afternoon. “With the stay-at-home order lifted, with warmer weather here, with more and more people getting out and getting together in groups, along with large gatherings that we’ve seen in the streets over the past few weeks, we are concerned and watching closely.”
According to CDPH, the city needs to meet several goals to move to Phase 4:
- Declining or stable rates of new cases for 28 days, of fewer than 200 new cases per day for 14 days;
- Stable or declining rates of COVID-19 cases resulting in hospital admissions or deaths for 28 days;
- Stable or declining rates of emergency room visits for coronavirus-like or flu-like illnesses for 21 days;
- Fewer than 1,000 non-ICU hospital beds, fewer than 400 ICU beds, and fewer than 300 ventilators occupied by COVID-19 patients;
- Maintaining COVID-19 testing capacity of more than 4,500 tests per day;
- And maintaining a citywide positivity rate of less than 7% per day.
Arwady said the city is meeting all of those goals, except for the positivity rate, which stands at 8.6%, and testing capacity. However, she noted the city’s testing capacity was well above 4,500 tests per day at the end of May, before some testing sites were suspended due to looting and other civil unrest in Chicago in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. She also noted some drive-through testing sites had to temporarily shut down last week due to severe weather.
“We were well above our metric, and now have just dropped below it, and this is a point we’ll be working on a lot over the next few weeks,” Arwady said.
“I think if everything continues on the very good path that we’re seeing, we could be looking at July 1 for Phase 4 potential reopening. If things really went well, if we got down to a point where, for example, we were out of that high and moderate risk, and we were at a medium, sort of a moderate risk capacity, meaning fewer than 100 new cases a day, maybe we could even go before that,” she added.
The city also has launched a new online dashboard that will allow people to monitor COVID-19 trends across the city; and to sort data by zip code, race, ethnicity, age, and gender.
Arwady said if city officials notice increases in the rate of new cases, positivity rates, or in hospitalizations, they might have to pause reopening plans, or even move back to Phase 2 if there’s a large spike in new cases.
With more people going outside as the weather improves, and more restrictions have been lifted during Phase 3, Arwady said it’s not just the large number of protests that have been seen across Chicago that increase the risk of further spread of the virus.READ MORE: 860 Afghan Refugees Coming To Illinois From First Wave Of Resettlement
“In some ways the protests have been a very visible sign of the ongoing risks of COVID, and so in some ways I think the protests have served to remind people that there are risks and so the fact that protesters broadly in Chicago have been wearing face coverings, I’ve been pleased to see that,” she said. “It worries me where they can’t keep their six foot distance, and so if people are making that decision to protest please keep the six foot distance.”
Asked what advice she would give to people going out to eat during Phase 3, or just to enjoy the outdoors, Arwady said they need to think not only about the risk that they could still catch the virus, but that they could spread it to others.
“I really want people to think about their own risk for a serious outcome from COVID,” Arwady said. “Am I personally over 60 and/or do I have an underlying condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes that would put me at risk?”
She said, even if someone going out to enjoy the summer weather isn’t at high risk themselves, they could still catch the virus without showing symptoms, and pass it on to someone in their household who is at high risk.
“There is no such thing as an entirely safe interaction unless you are always able to keep that six-foot distance, you have that face covering on, you’re doing the hand hygiene, and really keeping things on top of mind,” she said.
Arwady also noted that many states that are ahead of Illinois in reopening their economies have seen a rise in virus cases.
“We have seen increases in about 20 other states at this point that reopened before Illinois did and before Chicago did. Obviously, we’re watching very carefully to see what happens there,” she said.
The city entered Phase 3 of reopening on June 3, allowing restaurants to open outdoor seating, hair salons and barbershops to reopen with strict health guidelines in place, gyms and healthclubs to offer outdoor classes or one-on-one training, and some other retail shops to open with capacity limits.
City officials have yet to outline details of what Phase 4 will look like in Chicago. But the state reopening plan would allow restaurants and bars to reopen indoor dining; movie theaters, gyms, and health clubs to reopen with capacity limits; and public gatherings of up to 50 people would be allowed.MORE NEWS: Construction Begins On Affordable Housing In Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood
Arwady said city officials might announce some details of Chicago’s next phase of reopening sometime next week.