According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID cases and hospitalizations threaten to push several counties in the Chicago area, including Cook County, to the highest level of COVID alert in the coming weeks. .
This data, released Thursday afternoon, indicates that several counties in the Chicago area could potentially soon reach a “high community level” of COVID-19, which would then prompt the CDC to recommend a wide variety of mitigation strategies for help stem metric increases.
Even if some counties meet that “high community level” threshold, that doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic return to COVID mitigations, including a mask mandate.
Here’s what we know.
What is considered a “high community level” of COVID?
According to CDC guidelines, an area’s “community level” of COVID is determined by three measures: its weekly new COVID cases per 100,000 population, its weekly new hospitalizations per 100,000 population, and its percentage of hospital beds. occupied by COVID patients.
Every county in NBC viewing area 5 is already seeing at least 200 or more weekly new COVID cases per 100,000 residents, pushing those areas into an “average community level” of virus categorization.
In this situation, there are two metric thresholds that can be reached that would push these counties to a “high community level” of COVID. The first is if the county sees 10 or more weekly hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, or if it sees 10% or more of its hospital beds occupied by COVID patients.
What the data tells us
The CDC aggregates its hospitalization data based not only on the county in which a hospital is located, but also on other counties potentially served by that hospital.
As a result, Cook, DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties are all extremely close to escalating to the “high community level” of COVID. Those four counties combined are seeing 9.8 new weekly hospital admissions per 100,000 people, according to CDC data.
In Kankakee County, that number currently stands at 8.8 new admissions per 100,000 population, while in DeKalb, Kane and Kendall counties the number has increased to 8.1 new admissions.
As a result, these eight counties could soon join the other eight counties in Illinois that have already reached “high community level” of the virus.
The center’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, adopted a panel’s recommendation on Thursday.
Here’s what the CDC recommends for ‘high community level’ areas
So what does the CDC recommend individuals do when their area reaches this “high community level” threshold?
For starters, the CDC recommends that all residents of these counties, regardless of their vaccination status, wear masks in indoor spaces.
Immunocompromised residents or those who live with residents who are immunocompromised are encouraged to consider taking additional measures to protect themselves and their loved ones, including “avoiding non-essential indoor activities”.
It is also recommended that these residents speak to their health care providers about additional preventative measures, or ask if they are eligible for COVID antivirals or monoclonal antibodies in the event of COVID infection.
As Chicago moves from a ‘low’ to ‘medium’ COVID risk level, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, has shared her recommendations regarding indoor masking and indoor dining. restaurants and bars.
So would a return to “high community level” mean a mask mandate?
At the state level, it does not appear that a county upgrading to the “high community level” category would see a mask mandate returned.
While returning a mandate has not been ruled out by Chicago health officials, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she is monitoring a different metric to determine if the warrants would come back.
“While our hospital numbers remain as good as they are, we should see twice as many Chicagoans hospitalized for needing to think about warrants,” she said.
The CDPH said that even if the region reaches a higher alert level, “the City of Chicago would not immediately reinstate an indoor mask mandate, as serious outcomes in Chicago remain relatively rare and the burden of COVID- 19 in our local hospitals remains low.”
While Cook County is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of COVID hospitalizations, its percentage of staffed beds currently being used by COVID patients remains well below the “high” threshold, currently standing at 3%.
In the city of Chicago itself, the weekly hospitalization rate per 100,000 population currently sits at 6.3, well below the level recorded by the rest of the county.