Public health officials in Chicago have loosened guidelines for travel to and from 18 states as the city’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate sits at its lowest point since the onset of the pandemic.
Statewide, the seven-day average positivity rate is the lowest it’s been since July. And COVID-19 hospitalizations are at comparable levels.
For Chicago, the states seeing less travel restrictions include Wisconsin and Indiana, which have also seen coronavirus infections decline, moving them down from the “orange tier” to yellow on the color-coded emergency travel order updated Tuesday by the Chicago Department of Public Health.
The city still wants people traveling from the 31 remaining orange-level hot spot states — including Iowa and Kentucky — to quarantine for 10 days or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within three days of arrival to Chicago.
That will no longer apply for people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus. The updated order goes into effect Friday.
States move from orange to yellow when their average case rates fall below 15 new infections per day for every 100,000 residents. Only a few states were at the yellow level earlier this month.
The other yellow tier states now include Hawaii, North Dakota, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, Maryland, Nevada, Arkansas, Washington, Michigan, Maine, Missouri and Oregon, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
People who violate the city’s travel order can face fines, though that hasn’t happened since it was implemented in July. Officials still advise against any unnecessary travel.
“Though the Chicago case numbers have dropped of late, this is not a time to let our guard down,” the city health department said in a statement. “To maintain the current trajectory, we must double down on what we know prevents COVID spread. This includes wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, washing your hands and staying at home as much as you can.”
Chicago’s seven-day average positivity rate is down to 3.1%, the lowest it has been since the virus gripped the state early last year. Statewide, that key indicator of transmission is at 2.8%, as low as it’s been since the start of July.
Coronavirus hospitalizations are back down to summertime levels, too, with 1,488 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients Monday night.
Infections have plunged since the start of the new year as vaccines have slowly rolled out. The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced the latest 1,665 cases diagnosed among 61,400 tests.
At the same time, 43,282 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered, which is less than half the state’s one-day high of more than 95,000 shots given Feb. 11. With the latest doses, the state’s rolling average of shots given per day inched slightly upward to 55,917.
Vaccination efforts were bogged down last week by heavy snow and delayed shipments from the federal government, but Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said deliveries have caught up heading into this week.
Almost 2.3 million shots have gone into arms over the past two months, but only about 591,000 people have received both required doses — just 4.6% of the population.
As the vaccine ramp-up continues, the virus has still claimed an average of 48 lives per day this month. Officials reported 27 deaths Tuesday, including a Cook County woman in her 40s.
Illinois’ death toll has climbed to 20,330 since last March, as about 1.2 million residents have been diagnosed with the virus.