Easter egg punt? Coronavirus spike good reason to skip holiday celebrations, Chicago’s top doc says

Just like other celebrations that have been thrown off by COVID-19, Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said unvaccinated families who insist on getting together should stay outside, wear masks and stay 6 feet apart.

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Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady speaks during a Feb. 4 press conference. Easter celebrations should be kept virtual again this year, she said Thursday.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said Thursday that Easter and Passover celebrations should be kept virtual again this year.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

In-person Easter celebrations should be put on hold as coronavirus infection rates hop back up to troubling levels, the city’s top doctor warned Thursday.

Unless family members are fully vaccinated — meaning two weeks removed from their final dose — it’s best to keep gatherings virtual with COVID-19 still looming, according to Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

That’s even more important this weekend because the virus is already spreading across the city and state at the quickest rate seen in almost two months, Arwady said during an online Q&A.

“You don’t want your Easter celebration to turn into a contact tracing event. You really don’t,” she said. “Each day as more people get vaccinated, these things are becoming safer, but with the amount of people fully vaccinated — unless you’ve got a fully vaccinated group gathering, there still is a fair bit of risk.

“It’s a time when a lot of people traditionally get together, but the virus does not know that it’s Easter. It does not know that it is Passover,” Arwady said. “The things that we’ve been doing to protect each other and protect those we care about — especially now with vaccine in the mix — become even more important.”

Just like for other celebrations over the past year that have been thrown off by COVID-19, Arwady said unvaccinated families who insist on getting together should stay outside, wear masks and keep 6 feet of social distance.

That should still be the norm until vaccine supply improves and more residents receive it. Not even 15% of Chicagoans have gotten a shot so far, compared to about 17.3% of all Illinois residents.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health


Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

“I’m feeling really optimistic about larger events and what we’re going to be able to do” this summer, Arwady said. “But for right now, still please do try to think of others and especially those at more risk for severe outcomes.”

Some North Side residents aren’t doing that, which has driven a spike in transmission over the past three weeks — especially among young people in the Lincoln Park area, Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have said.

The city’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate is at 4.6% — it’s highest point since the first week of February — while an average of 519 residents are testing positive each day. That figure has jumped 41% in a week. The next several weeks are “the point of major concern” to prevent a serious resurgence, according to the public health commissioner.

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health


Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

“We’re not at a point to be having those large gatherings yet,” Arwady said — hours before she was scheduled to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before 8,000-plus fans allowed to see the Cubs open the season at Wrigley Field.

“I have every confidence in their plans for being at the stadium,” she said. “My concern is more gatherings that are probably going to happen to watch that game or around that game, as opposed to what’s in the actual stadium.”

The uptick is happening across the rest of the state, too. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,526 new cases, the highest one-day case tally since Feb. 5. The statewide positivity is as high as it’s been since then, too, at 3.5%.

Hospitalizations continue to rise, a trend that has pushed back Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan. A total of 1,411 beds were occupied by coronavirus patients Wednesday night.

Officials also reported 25 more COVID-19 deaths, including that of a man in his 30s from downstate Madison County, near St. Louis.

Illinois’ death toll is up to 21,326, among almost 1.3 million residents who have been infected over the past year. About 2.2 million have been fully vaccinated.

With 116,551 shots going into arms Wednesday, the state is vaccinating an average of 109,073 people per day.

People 16 and older with underlying health conditions, plus essential workers, are eligible to get shots.

Pritzker will open eligibility to all adults April 12 and has urged Chicago, which receives its doses separately from the rest of the state, to do likewise.

The city hasn’t announced a date but Arwady said “we probably will open this age range up, but we just need to know a little more about what’s happening with supply.”

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