Mask ask? Some suburbanites advised to cover their faces as COVID-19 risk level rises in Cook, Lake, DuPage counties
Suburban Cook County’s case rate has jumped to 210 per 100,000 residents over the last week, meaning masks are advised indoors for the immunocompromised and people 50 or older.
COVID-19 transmission has risen to a troubling new level in many Chicago suburbs — and the city is not far behind.
Suburban Cook and Lake counties on Friday became the latest segments of the metro area to hit the “medium” coronavirus risk level set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joining DuPage County, which rose to that level a week ago.
Counties are flagged when they rise to a weekly average rate of 200 or more cases per 100,000 residents. Suburban Cook County’s case rate has jumped to 210, meaning masks are advised indoors for the immunocompromised and people 50 or older.
“These recommendations are not new but are being emphasized to protect our communities from further increases in COVID. As hospitalizations remain low, we want to contain further spread now,” Cook County Public Health Senior Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Rubin said in a statement.
Chicago’s regional case rate was still below the CDC threshold at 167, but city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady previously said the city would align with the county’s transmission category to avoid confusing residents.
During an online Q&A Thursday, Arwady stressed it’s “not a reason to panic” — and no, there aren’t any mask mandates in the city’s immediate future.
“I am confident that we are nowhere near needing to put vaccine [and mask] requirements in place at the city level at this time because our health care system continues to do well,” Arwady said during an online Q&A. “You should consider wearing a mask and you should continue to make sure you’re up to date with the vaccine — that’s the most important thing.”
At least six of Illinois’ 102 counties have reached the medium risk level, with DuPage reporting a case rate of 259 per 100,000 residents and Lake climbing to 212.
“We continue to urge our community to get vaccinated and boosted when eligible in order to ensure they have the best protection possible against COVID-19,” Lake County Health Department spokesperson Emily Young said in an email. “Individuals who are experiencing symptoms should get tested for COVID-19 and wear a mask. It is also recommended to wear a mask on public transportation in order to protect yourself and others.”
Gov J.B. Pritzker, who lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate two months ago, said at an unrelated Chicago news conference that “we’re paying close attention, and I would encourage people, if you’re uncomfortable going into a room full of people, to wear masks.”
The other counties marked yellow on the CDC’s color-coded risk category map are in central Illinois: Logan (283 cases per 100,000 residents), McLean (292) and Champaign (353).
They’re all still far short of the hospital occupancy metrics that would move them up to the CDC’s orange “high” transmission category that could potentially prompt officials to bring back mask requirements.
Arwady described the steady, month-long case increase — a pattern playing out across most of the U.S. — as a “gentle rise” that pales in comparison to the Omicron variant surge that pushed hospitals to the limit in January.
Statewide, average daily case counts have tripled since March 29, with more than 3,500 residents testing positive each day in the last week, not including at-home tests.The state reported 5,955 new cases Friday, the most in a day since Feb. 4.
Hospital admissions, while relatively low, have reached the highest level seen since early March, with 732 beds occupied by coronavirus patients Thursday night.
Still, case and hospitalization rates were roughly 10 times worse during the Omicron peak.
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.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has said the state isn’t experiencing a surge but “remains strongly positioned to respond” if the situation spirals.
“The most important point we want to stress about COVID-19 treatments is that timing is essential, and the public should know that it is critically important to consult a healthcare provider and seek treatment immediately if you test positive,” acting Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Amaal Tokars said in a statement.
“The treatments are widely available with a prescription, and they are much more effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths when they are taken early in the course of the illness.”
About 68% of Illinois’ total population are considered fully vaccinated, and 51% have gotten a booster.
For help finding a shot, visit vaccines.gov.