All U.S. states remain on Chicago’s optional travel advisory for unvaccinated people for the second week in a row, officials said Tuesday.
Illinois is not on the list because the city does not want to restrict intrastate travel, but the other 49 states and four territories are all places where officials are strongly advising unvaccinated people take extra COVID-19 precautions when visiting.
The city’s list of warning spots had not been this long since February 2021, when every state and territory was again on the travel order, which was mandatory at the time.
“If you’re unvaccinated and you travel, you’re taking a huge health risk,” public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “People are ending up in hospitals every day who didn’t think they’d ever be there — and nearly all of them are unvaccinated. People are dying every day — and overwhelmingly they are unvaccinated.”
Under the city’s latest guidance, unvaccinated travelers from areas on the advisory should get tested one to three days before departure. When they return to the city, they should get a PCR test three to five days after travel and quarantine for five days — even if they test negative.
States get on the travel advisory when they report at least 15 daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. The nation is averaging 203 daily cases per 100,000 residents, while that metric is 227 in Illinois and 177 in Chicago.
Other citywide data shows Chicago is averaging 4,793 daily cases and a 18.9% positivity rate, both down from the previous week. But the caseload remains at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations and deaths are up at 187 and 17, respectively, which Arwady attributed to the latest omicron wave catching up to the health care system.
Statewide, the average number of new coronavirus cases and the average number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Illinois continued to climb. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration on Tuesday launched an advertising campaign to try to convince those who have misgivings to get vaccinated.
It’s unclear whether previous public service campaigns or even the state’s relatively short-lived vaccine lottery had a significant effect on the number of people getting inoculated. But the governor’s office and state health officials said they hope the new effort, dubbed “On the Fence” and featuring testimonials from previously hesitant Illinois residents who’ve now been vaccinated, will be persuasive amid the omicron-driven surge.
“We have the tools to get through this, and I encourage everyone on the fence to get vaccinated,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Reaching out to a relative, a co-worker or a neighbor who is hesitant about getting the vaccine with kindness and compassion will help keep us all safe.”
Although it generally has caused less severe symptoms, the highly contagious omicron variant also has proved to be more resistant to the original series of vaccinations, leading federal and state health officials to expand eligibility for booster doses.
The vaccines remain the best protection against the most severe cases, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement.
“People receiving the COVID-19 vaccines are experiencing significantly reduced rates of hospitalization and death,” Ezike said. “They are recommended for everyone 5 years and older.”
Boosters have been authorized for people 12 and older.
The city is also attempting to ramp up vaccination by extending the hours of its City Colleges of Chicago locations that offer the shot. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends until the end of February, anyone age 5 and up can go to the CCC family clinics for first and second shots as well as boosters.
The sites will offer the Pfizer vaccine, and appointments are required. Registration can be found at https://events.juvare.com/IL-IDPH/dvb73/?require_cookie=true
As of Tuesday, nearly 69% of Illinois residents ages 5 and older have been fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Public Health. Over the past week, the state has averaged 52,187 doses administered per day, including boosters. That’s up from a week ago but down from an average of 71,749 per day a month earlier, when demand was up after federal officials recommended boosters for anyone 18 and older.
Over the past week, Illinois has averaged 32,173 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 per day, up from an average of 23,586 per day a week earlier. The average number of new cases in Illinois has been setting records on a near-daily basis since just before Christmas.
The average number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 each day also continues to set records on a daily basis, with an average of 7,119 coronavirus patients per day in Illinois hospitals during the week ending Monday.
State health officials on Tuesday reported another 92 coronavirus-related fatalities, pushing the average number of daily deaths to 83 over the past week. That’s the highest level since the week ending Jan. 26, 2021. The daily average has more than doubled over the past month.
The state has recorded 28,660 deaths since the pandemic began.