Most of Chicago area returns to medium COVID-19 level

Chicago and most of the surrounding area has returned to a medium COVID-19 transmission level with case numbers dropping and lower hospitalization rates.

Cook County, including Chicago, dropped to a medium rating on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metric Thursday, local public health officials announced.

As of late Thursday, Kane, Lake and DuPage counties were also rated medium, while McHenry County was listed at low transmission for COVID-19. Will County remained high, as did Kendall, DeKalb and Kankakee counties.

Three weeks ago, much of the greater Chicago area was rated high for coronavirus transmission as the region continued to deal with omicron and its subvariants. City public health officials strongly advised people to resume mask-wearing in indoor public settings.

Yet “COVID-19 is still with us,” Chicago’s top public health official, Dr. Allison Arwady, said in a statement Thursday evening.

“We have been trending in the right direction of late with lower case rates and very few hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, so we’re happy to see this,” Arwady said. “But COVID-19 is still with us. We continue to recommend masking indoors and that the medically vulnerable in particular continue to take precautions to protect themselves from infection. We’re not close to being out of this yet.”

In Chicago, the seven-day average of new cases was 845 as of Sunday, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. That’s down from nearly 1,300 a month ago. At the peak of the omicron surge in January, that same figure was nearly 7,000, the highest since the pandemic began in early 2020.

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, nationwide numbers have dropped slightly in the last week — with 42% of the country in high transmission then versus 39.6% now — but the “balance has shifted” from the Northeast and New England to the Southwest , the Mid-Atlantic and Florida.

Vaccinations and boosters are strongly advised to guard against serious illness and hospitalization. On Wednesday, an FDA panel recommended emergency approval of COVID-19 shots for children under 5. If the FDA and CDC authorize the vaccines, they could be available as early as next week.

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