Chicago-Area Counties Seeing ‘Substantial’ COVID Transmission – NBC Chicago

Chicago-Area Counties Seeing ‘Substantial’ COVID Transmission – NBC Chicago


Every county in the Chicago area except one is seeing “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19, placing nearly the entire region in the category in which fully vaccinated people should resume wearing a mask indoors, federal health officials say.

Meanwhile, as coronavirus cases are once again on the rise, more Chicago companies are mandating vaccinations and masks.

And three winners have been chosen during the fourth $100,000 drawing of Illinois’ COVID vaccine lottery.

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:

Can Your Employer Require a Coronavirus Vaccine?

As coronavirus cases are once again on the rise fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, more Chicago companies are mandating vaccinations and masks.

Some employees and customers are pushing back against the rules, citing their freedom of choice, but Chicago attorney Tom Glasgow said the legal system is not on their side, at least not so far.

“You’re an employee at will,” said Glasgow, of Glasgow & Olsson. “They can mandate anything for you as a private employer.”

Glasgow pointed to a case in Houston, where more than 150 healthcare employees who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine were fired or resigned after a judge dismissed a lawsuit, filed by an employee, over the vaccination requirement.

The judge said that if the employees didn’t like the requirement, they could go work elsewhere.

“The court summarily dismissed it basing it in large part on the long history we have had of being able to mandate specific vaccines, Mumps, Measles, Rubella, etcetera, going all the way back to 1905, when we first mandated the small pox vaccine,” said Glasgow.

“If you don’t have a contract, or you’re not part of a collective bargaining unit, they can mandate whatever they see fit for the health, safety and welfare of other employees,” he said.

Read more here.

Business Owners Debate Additional COVID Measures as Cases Rise

As officials explore their options to try to limit recent increases in coronavirus cases, some business owners are taking matters into their own hands, requiring customers to wear masks or even requiring proof of vaccination for their employees.

In northeastern Illinois, all but one county is currently experiencing “substantial” or “high” transmission of coronavirus, including Cook County. That means that the CDC has recommended that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks.

Some businesses don’t believe that recommendation has gone far enough, and are implementing their own ideas.

The question of whether employers can mandate vaccines has been discussed at length in recent months, but in “at-will” employment situations, like those that exist in Illinois, the answer is clear: they can.

And large-scale national companies are adopting such rules, with Google, Walmart, Facebook and more mandating that certain employees be vaccinated against the virus.

Read more here.

$100K Illinois Vaccine Lottery Winners Chosen From Schaumburg, Springfield and Macon County

Three winners were chosen Monday during the fourth $100,000 drawing of Illinois’ COVID vaccine lottery.

The winners, located in Schaumburg, Springfield and Macon County, will be notified by the Illinois Department of Public Health by phone or email starting Monday afternoon. Each will be awarded a $100,000 cash prize.

“Illinoisans from those cities and counties should keep their phones on and check their emails regularly to find out if they’ve won,” IDPH said in a statement.

Health officials will call from 312-814-3524 and/or email from [email protected].

Read more here.

Every Chicago-Area County Except 1 Is Seeing ‘Substantial’ COVID Transmission and Should Mask Indoors, CDC Says

Every county in the Chicago area except one is seeing “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19, placing nearly the entire region in the category in which fully vaccinated people should resume wearing a mask indoors, federal health officials say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last week to recommend that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing “substantial” or “high” transmission of COVID-19.

The new guidance marked a reversal from earlier recommendations that said fully vaccinated people could remove masks in most settings.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker, a map showing levels of community transmission for each county in the U.S., every county in the Chicago area except Kankakee County is seeing “substantial” transmission.

Most of Illinois’ counties fall into either “substantial,” labeled in orange, or “high” transmission, labeled in red. Kankakee and five other counties across the state are seeing “moderate” transmission, labeled in yellow, while just one on the western border of the state is seeing “low” transmission colored in blue.

Read more here.

How to Find Out if You’re in an Area Where the CDC Recommends Masks Indoors

In which areas is the CDC recommending people wear masks indoors? The agency points to its COVID-19 data tracker showing levels of community transmission, along with other data, for each county in the U.S.

You can find that map here.

The agency uses a two measures to group U.S. counties into four levels of community transmission: the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive over the past week.

If a county has reported 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period or has a positivity rate of 8% to 10%, it falls into the “substantial transmission” tier, while those reporting 100 cases or more per 100,000 or have a positivity rate of at least 10% are labeled as “high transmission.” Those are the two groups for which the CDC recommends mask-wearing.

Read more here.

Chicago Officials Recommend Masks But Have ‘No Plans to Shut Down’ City as COVID Cases Rise

Chicago officials have recommended everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, but on Sunday said there are “no plans to shut down” the city again as COVID-19 metrics continue to rise.

“In Chicago, we can be open and be careful,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference Sunday. “We have no current plans to shut down Chicago again.”

Chicago passed a key threshold Friday when the average number of daily new COVID cases surpassed 200 per day, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last week to recommend that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor settings again in areas of the U.S. that are seeing “substantial” or “high” transmission of COVID-19.

More than 200 new daily cases in Chicago puts the city in the “sustantial” transmission category, officials said, and while that figure has been increasing steadily for weeks, it’s still far below the numbers seen in the previous surges of the pandemic.

And hospitalizations, while also increasing, are still staying at a “low transmission” level, with an average of eight new admissions per day, according to Arwady.

As a result, Arwady and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday that they have no plans to implement more regulations and mitigations against COVID, and are instead leaning on the new CDC guidance that everyone should resume wearing masks indoors.

“Being careful means getting vaccinated. When you get vaccinated, first and foremost you are protecting yourself,” Arwady said. “When our numbers are higher, you put on a mask. When you put on a mask, you predominantly are protecting others. These two things working together help us to be careful as a city, and to stay open.”

Read more here.

‘It Is Not Forever’: Chicago Officials Urge Residents to Wear Masks Amid COVID-19 Increases

Days after the city of Chicago and Cook County were deemed to have “substantial” transmission of COVID-19, triggering new recommendations that all residents wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, city officials are urging cooperation with the new guidelines, saying that they are a temporary step to helping tamp down on the delta variant-fueled spread of the disease.

“I know it’s hard, especially for people who are vaccinated, to feel like they have to put a mask on. It feels like we’re taking a step backwards, but when you do that, you help protect people who have not yet been vaccinated,” she said.

The city’s new recommendations mirror the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, which call for all individuals, regardless of whether they are vaccinated against COVID or not, to wear masks in areas where there is “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission of COVID-19.

Read more here.

Pritzker Skips Lollapalooza ‘Out of an Abundance of Caution’ Amid Rising COVID Cases

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker publicly said he would attend Lollapalooza this weekend in Chicago, but later decided not to attend amid rising COVID cases in the state, his office said Sunday.

Pritzker said last week that he planned to attend the four-day music festival, but said Sunday that he would not, citing rising case numbers and a new CDC finding that vaccinated individuals can potentially transmit coronavirus to others.

“Out of an abundance of caution, with cases on a sharply increasing trajectory and with the CDC’s finding Friday that vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus, the governor did not attend Lollapalooza,” his press secretary said.

Read more here.

Lollapalooza a ‘Recipe for Disaster,’ Doctors Say, Warning of COVID Spike After Festival

While Chicago officials remain hopeful Lollapalooza won’t spur a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, infectious disease experts at Northwestern University are bracing for a jump in infections during the coming weeks.

““It’s a recipe for disaster,” Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatrician and professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a news release. “You have people coming in all over from U.S., and even though the organizers are taking some efforts to mitigate infections, I don’t know how they’re going to enforce mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing…”

Despite an uptick in cases fueled by the delta variant, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Lollapalooza’s own health experts decided it was safe to proceed with the festival, Mayor Lori Lightfoot previously said.

Read more here.

Coronavirus in Illinois: 11,682 New COVID Cases, 39 Deaths, 154K Vaccinations in the Past Week

Illinois health officials on Friday reported 11,682 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 39 additional deaths and more than 154,000 new vaccine doses administered.

COVID cases statewide have increased 46% over the last week, with hospitalizations up 35%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Intensive care unit admissions also increased by 24% and there was a 41% increase of COVID patients on ventilators.

In all, 1,419,611 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the state since the pandemic began. The additional deaths reported this week bring the state to 23,440 confirmed COVID fatalities.

The state has administered 289,433 tests since last Friday, officials said, bringing the total to more than 26 million tests conducted during the pandemic.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate on all tests rose to 4% from 3.3% the week before and 1.9% two weeks prior. The rolling average seven-day positivity rate on individuals tested rose to 4.7%, up from 3.5% last week, officials said.

IDPH noted, however, that the regional seven-day positivity rate ranges from 2.8% to 9.5%.

Over the past seven days, a total of 154,447 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to Illinois residents. That brings the state’s average to 22,064 daily vaccination doses over the last week, down from the figures reported last Friday, per IDPH data.

State officials in Illinois have administered more than 13 million vaccine doses since vaccinations began in December. More than 58% of adult residents in the state are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with 74% receiving at least one dose.

As of midnight, 903 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID in the state. Of those patients, 167 are in ICU beds, and 62 are on ventilators. All three metrics are a reported increase since last Friday.

Cook County Updates Guidance to Recommend Masks Indoors Regardless of Vaccination Status

Cook County updated its guidance on masking and other COVID-19 precautions Friday, recommending everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as health officials say the region is seeing “substantial” community transmission.

The Cook County Department of Public Health issued new policies one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed the county into the “substantial” transmission category, triggering the CDC’s recommendation to resume indoor masking under its new guidance released Tuesday.

In alignment with the CDC, CCDPH said it “strongly recommends” the following: 

  • Individuals over 2 years of age should wear a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. 
  • Fully-vaccinated people who have been exposed to someone who has suspected or confirmed COVID should be tested 3-5 days following the exposure and wear a mask indoors as above · Fully-vaccinated people may wish to mask outdoor in crowded settings. CCDPH fully endorses this action. 
  • Guidance has not changed for unvaccinated individuals: masks should be worn indoors and in crowded outdoor settings, regardless of the community transmission level. 

CCDPH said it also continues to recommend its previous guidance that all people in school settings – teachers, staff, students, and visitors – should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status and community transmission level.

The department is also encouraging people to mask indoors or in crowded outdoor settings regardless of community transmission.

Masks are still required for everyone older than 2 on public transportation or at any indoor transportation hub, as well as in health care and long-term care settings, CCDPH said.

Read more here.

Pritzker Requires Masks for Everyone in Illinois State Buildings

Citing an increase in COVID-19 cases spurred by the delta variant, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an order Thursday requiring that everyone who enters a state building wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status.

In a news release, Dr. Nzogi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, explained the masking directive adds another layer of protection for state employees and those Illinois serves.

“Vaccination is still the best protection against both the older and newer variants that cause COVID-19,” she stated. “And until more people get vaccinated and transmission decreases, masking will help protect us all.”

According to guidance released Thursday, state employees must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth while in a workplace or performing work duties in indoor settings outside of their residence, unless a medical condition prevents them from doing so. Employees are also advised to maintain physical distance of at least six feet “at all times or as much as reasonably possible.”

Visitors over 2 years old are required to wear face coverings while inside state offices and facilities. An exception is made if individuals “are unable to medically tolerate a face covering,” the guidance stated.

Read more here.

Chicago Travel Advisory: 9 States Added to List as COVID Cases Continue to Rise

Chicago updated its travel advisory Tuesday, adding nine additional states to the list recommending that anyone entering the city from those areas test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine upon arrival.

The city added nine states – for a total of 14 states and one territory – back to the advisory, which is updated each week.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming were all added Tuesday, the Chicago Department of Public Health said.

They join Florida, Louisiana and Nevada, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were added last week, plus Missouri and Arkansas which were added two weeks prior and all remain on the list.

Recent increases in COVID metrics pushed those newly added states over the threshold of 15 cases per day per 100,000 people to get onto the “orange” list. Any below that mark are on the “yellow” list, with public health officials still warning against non-essential travel.

Read more here.

Here’s How the Delta Variant Symptoms Differ From the Initial COVID Strain

About 83 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been fueled by the delta variant, and as the surge continues, the number of associated cases is expected to rise even higher in the coming weeks, according to health officials.

Approximately one month ago, on June 19, the delta variant accounted for just over 30 percent of new cases. On July 3, it crossed the 50 percent threshold to become the dominant variant in the U.S. Public health experts nationwide have focused their efforts on encouraging vaccinations as most of those who’ve contracted the variant haven’t been vaccinated.

Studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against multiple variants, including the delta variant. However, when it comes to symptoms, there appear to be key differences.

Here’s what you need to know.

Delta Variant: What to Know About the New Coronavirus Strain Causing a Surge in COVID Cases

Public health officials are sounding alarm bells throughout the United States, as the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has led to a massive surge in cases in recent weeks.

What exactly is the delta variant? What makes it different from previous strains of the COVID-19 virus? Do vaccines protect you against it?

Here’s an exhaustive list of what we know so far about the variant itself and what is being seen in Chicago and Illinois.

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