City to reduce some COVID programs, change travel advisories

Chicago’s at-home vaccination program will be offered four days a week instead of seven beginning April 1. Gift card incentives will be limited by ZIP codes.

SHARE City to reduce some COVID programs, change travel advisories
Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s Public Health commissioner, gives an update on the city’s COVID-19 caseload and regulations during a press conference Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s Public Health commissioner, gives an update on the city’s COVID-19 caseload and regulations during a press conference Tuesday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Chicago plans to cut back its at-home vaccination program and its gift card incentives as demand wanes.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s chief health official, said Tuesday at-home vaccinations will be offered four days a week instead of seven beginning April 1.

Medical professionals with syringes and vaccine doses will show up between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.

Appointments scheduled by March 25 that fall in April will be honored regardless of the day of the week.

Also beginning April 1, eligibility for a $50 gift card for getting jabbed will be restricted to people who live in the 15 ZIP codes on the South and West sides where less than 70% of residents are vaccinated.

Arwady said Chicago is in as good a place, better than most of the country, despite a slight uptick of cases in recent days, which is probably due to the more-contagious BA2 subvariant of Omicron.

“It’s nothing to be alarmed about,” she said.

While noting the pandemic is greatly diminished, she said, “I want to emphasize that COVID is not over.”

“We’ve passed 80 million cases now diagnosed across the U.S., and it’s not going to be long before we pass the 1 millionth COVID death in the country,” she said.

The country’s COVID-19 death toll stood at nearly 972,000 on Tuesday.

Arwady and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said they remain comfortable with the school system’s mask-optional policy but would reinstate a mandate if cases rise.

Martinez said students and staff at most schools are still masked, and officials have followed protocol at Coonley Elementary in North Center, where 40 cases over the past month have six classrooms back under a mask mandate.

“The vast majority of our students are wearing masks, the vast majority of our staff,” he said, based on his school visits the past week. “I’m very thankful to those families that made that choice.”

Martinez said contact tracing determined almost all the Coonley infections were contracted when kids gathered for events outside of school hours. About 90% of Coonley students are fully vaccinated, officials said, well above the 45% of kids districtwide.

Anyone in need of vaccination or booster can go to chi.gov/covidvax for more information or call the city’s COVID-19 hotline at 312-746-4835.

The Chicago Department of Health also announced changes to its travel advisories. Beginning Friday, it will use county-level data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instead of state-level data. Counties will be color-coded to reflect low, medium or high risk.

Travel recommendations were made based on a state’s number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

Asked if she had any plans to exit her post as her state counterpart, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, did earlier this month, Arwady said she is not going anywhere.

“I have told my team that I am seeing this all the way through,” she said.

The Latest
The boy was transported to Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in good condition, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt.
Two years ago, Chicago Police Officer Lowell Houser was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the 2017 shooting of Jose Nieves.
MLB
He tested positive for the performance-enhancing substance Stanozolol. Mejia is the second Brewers player disciplined this season under Major League Baseball’s drug program.
The shooting happened just after 3 p.m. in the 2300 block of South Western Avenue, down the street from Finkl Academy, Chicago police said.
White Sox take the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader with their second straight win in Kansas City.