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Chicago well being officers introduced Friday that indoor masking is as soon as once more “strongly advisable” — however not required — within the metropolis as the danger of contracting COVID-19 in Prepare dinner County has elevated.

Chicago’s public well being Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady made the advisory after the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention deemed Prepare dinner County is now within the “medium” threat stage for group transmission. The metrics are primarily based on a mixture of latest instances and hospitalizations, however the medium class is routinely reached if weekly instances surpass 200 optimistic checks per 100,000 residents.

Arwady burdened that despite the fact that the county was within the medium threat class town shouldn’t be close to reinstating mandates on indoor masking or proof-of-vaccination, although Chicago Public Faculties and the Chicago Transit Authority are also “encouraging” indoor masking.

“Chicago transferring into the medium stage doesn’t imply a citywide masks mandate, restrictions on public gatherings, or reinstatement of vaccination necessities right now,” Arwady mentioned in a press release. “With the way in which the present COVID variants are behaving, these are measures we might think about if we reached the excessive COVID-19 group stage — which we aren’t near reaching in Chicago proper now.”

At CPS, staff and fogeys obtained a letter from CPS CEO Pedro Martinez stating that the district will “proceed strongly encouraging the usage of masks in our faculties,” particularly amongst unvaccinated college students, but it surely is not going to restore the masks mandate it dropped in March. Martinez mentioned within the letter that CPS will observe the suggestions of the Chicago Division of Public Well being.

Martinez famous the positivity charge of the district’s in-school COVID-19 testing program is 0.68% whereas town’s positivity charge is 3.9%. The 0.68% positivity charge is the very best for the district’s testing program since January, close to the tip of the extremely contagious omicron variant. CPS case numbers have been rising since college students returned from spring break final month.

Final month, Arwady instructed a medium stage designation may result in a reinstated masks mandate at CPS, however this week she mentioned solely at excessive threat will any type of a masks requirement be put in place.

Technically this previous week, town of Chicago stood at 195 new instances per 100,000 residents — just under the 200-case threshold. However Arwady mentioned town would observe Prepare dinner County if the county broke 200 instances per 100,000 first. Prepare dinner County is at 259 instances per 100,000 residents, based on CDC knowledge. Nonetheless, COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU capability stay low for each town and the county.

The developments come one week after suburban Prepare dinner County areas reached the medium threat stage, prompting officers to additionally suggest indoor masking, and as COVID-19 numbers climb throughout Illinois.

Statewide, well being officers on Friday reported 7,709 new confirmed and possible instances of COVID-19, a stage not seen since early February. Over the previous week, the state has averaged 4,376 new instances per day, up from a median of 1,426 each day instances only one month in the past.

Whereas the CDC solely tracks its group ranges on a county-by-county foundation, Illinois as an entire has a weekly case charge of 240 per 100,000 residents. Along with Prepare dinner County, all 5 collar counties and eight others in northern and central Illinois at the moment are at medium stage, the place older residents and people with compromised immune programs are inspired to put on masks indoors.

Nonetheless, Amaal Tokars, performing director of the Illinois Division of Public Well being, mentioned in assertion Friday that the company “would stress this (is) not a trigger for alarm.”

These at larger threat for extreme outcomes from COVID ought to “train warning,” and everybody ought to ensure that they’re updated on their vaccinations, she mentioned.

The variety of sufferers hospitalized with COVID-19, whereas nonetheless comparatively low, is also rising statewide.

As of Thursday evening, there have been 808 COVID-19 sufferers in hospitals statewide, up from 515 a month earlier. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 hit an all-time excessive of seven,380 on Jan. 12, the peak of the winter surge pushed by the omicron variant.

Deaths have remained low, with the state averaging seven per day over the previous week, together with seven reported Friday. In all, the statewide demise toll stands at 33,660 for the reason that pandemic started.

Chicago Tribune’s Dan Petrella contributed.

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