CHICAGO (CBS) — As another vaccine option comes to chicago, Chicago’s top doc said it’s still too early to make plans for the Fourth of July without COVID restrictions.

While some restrictions are being dropped as more people getting the COVID vaccine, teens will still have to wear masks if they’re participating in school sports.

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“I think children are going to be a little more complicated in general because, even if they’re 16 and 17 year olds,” said Doctor Allison Arwady of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “Depending on sort of if there’s mixed ages on teams, etc.”

She said things could be loosened if more people in that age group get the COVID shot.

“And if we can see a lot of 16 and 17 year olds vaccinated, it will make us feel more confident about being able to, you know, think about loosening some restrictions there too,” Arwady said. “I think mostly though it’s going to be when we can really work on getting adolescents vaccinated broadly that we’ll be able to make some changes.”

For those who are 12 years old:

“I’m hopeful that perhaps in May, we may get that approval the emergency use authorization for kids 12 and older for Pfizer, but we don’t know yet,” Arwady said.

For professional sports, Arwady said she’s confident that the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox could see more fans in the stands.

“We’ll be talking some more details about this to come,” Arwady said. “As long as we can turn that dial and continue to see cases hospitalizations stable or declining, I do anticipate that as we’re looking ahead over the next few months, as long as our cases keep going down, which really means vaccinations go up, that we would be moving again in a dial away toward more reopening including in sports stadiums.”

Doctor Arwady said that she wasn’t ready to say that everything will be OK and restriction free by the Fourth of July.

“If I was an organizer for the Fourth of July, I would say first of all, let’s do everything we possibly can to get the people who might want to come to whatever event I’m hosting vaccinated,” Arwady said. “I do think and we’ve been saying this all along, that by this summer, we’re expecting to be in a much better place, certainly than we were last year.”

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled updated guidelines detailing activities that vaccinated people can safely resume, including attending small outdoor gatherings without the need to wear a mask.

Arwady said with the new federal guidelines announced, she hopes this gives people an incentive to get the COVID vaccine.

“As we will be opening things up a little bit more in sort of the days and weeks to come, there’s going to be more opportunities for people to do things if they’re vaccinated,” Arwady said, who added that there is still a high risk for those who haven’t been vaccinated.

“The risk at this point is split. If you yourself are vaccinated and you’re in a setting where most people are vaccinated, even if there’s 550 cases a day in Chicago, your individual risk is low,” Arwady said. “But when there are 550 cases a day in Chicago and you are not vaccinated, and especially if you’re gathering with a lot of other people who are not vaccinated, the risk starts to get more concentrated in those areas, and in fact it goes up.”

As for outdoor sporting events, Arwady said

Arwady also announced that the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine will be available at Chicago’s United Center next week. She said beginning Tuesday, May 4 the city will offer “the full complement of Johnson & Johnson appointments.”

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It goes through May 10 for walk-in for Johnson & Johnson.

“And then we will not be offering any additional first doses at the United Center,” Arwady said. “The team will stay to complete all of the second doses of Pfizer, on time, no issues there, but we are also going to start the drive thru again at the United Center with Johnson & Johnson.”

She added “the United Center has been a hugely successful venture for us and I really thank the federal government for providing that additional vaccine when we needed it, providing the staff and providing the support. We are now entering our eighth week of operations at the United Center. This was originally planned to be an eight week engagement from the federal government. It’s been going really well, so this will be our last week for walk in appointments for the Pfizer vaccine.”

Arwady said staff will stay to complete all second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“But we are also going to start the drive thru again at the United Center with Johnson & Johnson. We’ll be starting the drive thru on May 8. And then, even when the walk in is done, and the federal partners go home, at that moment if we see good uptick, we are planning to continue the United Center only as a drive-in site for Johnson & Johnson, likely going all the way through June,” Arwady said. “So the bottom line is right now you can get a vaccine at the United Center it’s Pfizer, you can walk up, You can make an appointment, we encourage you to do that. But starting next Tuesday, you’ll have the opportunity to walk in with J and J.”

Despite having an average of more than 500 COVID cases a day, Chicago’s top doc said the city is headed in the right direction

Doctor Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), said even with wanting COVID case numbers even lower, it’s better than it was from a few weeks ago.

“Our case count remains in the high risk territory but it is getting better,” Arwady said. “We’re averaging 548 new cases every day here in Chicago. We want that number down under 400 and ideally under 200, but it’s down from over 700 Just a couple of weeks ago, and heading the right direction.”

Arwady said “COVID test positivity today for the first time is at 4.9% under 5%, which really is our goal and that brought us down to lower risk today that has also decreased nicely from a high of 5.8%.”

The head of the CDPH said Chicago is averaging four COVID-related deaths daily.

Arwady also announced a multi-million dollar project, with funds from the CDC, is for $10 million RFP to establish Healthy Chicago Equity Zones to assist with vaccine engagement. 

 

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CBS 2 Chicago Staff