CHICAGO (CBS) — While COVID cases and hospitalizations are down slightly in Chicago, the city’s top doctor still wants people not to travel throughout the United States.
Doctor Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city’s travel zone grid showing what states have elevated numbers of COVID cases has gone from a three color system — with red, orange and yellow zones — to now a two-tier system with orange and yellow zones, which as of Tuesday has most of the United States in the orange zone. Only Hawaii is doing well with containing the number of coronavirus cases, putting it in the yellow zone.
“Except for the state of Hawaii, which is the only state in the U.S. that arguably is in excellent control of COVID, every other state, we are advising avoiding travel,” Arwady said. “But if people travel, upon return to Chicago or arrival in Chicago, they either have the choice of a 10-day quarantine or a getting a pre-arrival, negative test within 72 hours and then for those 10 days in Chicago, obviously strict masking social distancing avoiding unnecessary gatherings.”
Arwady said numbers in the city have declined some, but she said that Chicago is not in a good place in terms of case numbers.
“We are currently averaging just over 1,000 new cases in Chicago residents per day, while down from the 2,400 new cases per day that we were averaging in November, but well above the 400 new cases per day, which is where we’d like to be and where we were over the summer,” Arwady said. “Our goal here is the city ideally would be under 5% positivity. We’re currently at 10.3% test positivity in Chicago residents.”
Arwady said the change was made to be more in line with CDC guidance connected to travel as well as the availability of more COVID testing opportunities.
The head of the CDPH said the vaccine rollout continues, with healthcare workers at the head of the line to get a COVID vaccine. Arwady acknowledged that not every healthcare worker in the city has gotten the COVID vaccine, and it’s possible others, including essential workers, will be vaccinated soon.
As of now, more than 54,000 first COVID vaccine doses have been given with another 13,000-14,000 second doses also given. Arwady said approximately 40% of the COVID vaccines given to Chicago healthcare workers were given to workers who don’t live in the city.
“It’s not a problem, because these are people who work in our healthcare facilities here, but they don’t show up in the Chicago data and we’re getting a lot of questions about why our numbers looking different, and I wanted to really highlight that right from the beginning,” Arwady said.
The head of the CDPH said the city is forging partnerships with pharmacies and other locations to get COVID vaccines to the public once healthcare workers and other essential workers have been vaccinated.
“We are now up to more than 250 long-term care facilities that have been scheduled for strike teams from pharmacies working with Walgreens, CVS and PharmScript, through the federal partnership that skilled nursing assisted living and behavioral health. Also, newly, we have more than 250 vaccinating provider sites enrolled with more being added every day,” Arwady said, adding that those sites include outpatient clinics, federally qualified health centers, urgent care providers, and pharmacies.
Arwady said the independent pharmacies include Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s and Walmart.
The city’s top doctor said some healthcare workers in Chicago didn’t get the vaccine at first, but there is enough to cover those workers.
“We saw, particularly in the acute care hospital setting, that there were some healthcare providers who didn’t raise their hand right at the beginning; who said ‘I want to wait and watch some of my coworkers get their vaccine, maybe even their second vaccine.’ I am hopeful that many people who were perhaps waiting just a little bit to watch their colleagues get vaccinated will raise their hand to get vaccines today,” Arwady said. “This works like airplane boarding. If you’ve missed your call to get on the plane. You haven’t missed your opportunity before the plane takes off.”
TRAVEL ORDER UPDATE: CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., provides an update on Chicago's Travel Order, #COVID19, vaccinations and the latest data. https://t.co/qCc6RkRfUt #ProtectChicago https://t.co/foXAjFbRie
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) January 12, 2021
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