Despite rising COVID-19 cases, Chicago’s public health commissioner said Tuesday the city is not at this point mandating vaccination proof for indoor bars, restaurants and gyms, as New York City mayor’s announced will be required in that city.
Dr. Allison Arwady called New York’s move “appropriate” and praised Chicago businesses who independently implemented such a practice. But New York City was a lot less resistant at the idea of a vaccine passport than Chicago has been, she said.
“At this point, we’re interested in this,” Arwady said. “We’ll be watching to see how this plays out, but we don’t have a current plan to do something like that at the city level.”
Also Tuesday, Arwady defended claims by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Lollapalooza organizers that 90% of people who went through Lollapalooza’s gates showed proof of vaccination, in part based on Arwady’s own observances while at the festival in disguise.
During an online question-and-answer session, Arwady was asked to explain how officials reached that 90% figure, which Lightfoot revealed on Sunday as social media videos showed festival workers swiftly waving in people holding up white cards during the health screening.
Arwady said she showed up in a hat, glasses and mask to assess how strictly gatekeepers enforced the requirements that attendees show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or negative test within 72 hours.
“I was pleased,” Arwady said. “I got appropriately stopped and they were looking at it, and we saw a lot of people getting turned away if they didn’t come with anything.”
Her comments came as both Chicago and Illinois saw a jump in new COVID-19 statistics, with the city’s daily average of new cases rising from 205 Monday to 234 Tuesday. Chicago’s also expanded its travel warning to several more states Tuesday and since late last week is strongly recommending that everyone where masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Amid concerns that Lollapalooza could have been a superspreader event, Arwady said that among the people denied entry were those who didn’t get vaccinated early enough to meet the 14-day threshold for full protection or who got the test before the 72-hour ceiling. She added that Lolla workers also did “sampling” at various gates to conclude that 90% of those entering the gates who were vaccinated.
A city official said that over the course of the four-day festival — which drew hundreds of thousands of people, many packed in with no social distancing — more than 25,000 attendees were surveyed, and 93% of them said they were vaccinated, while 7% cited a recent negative test. Hundreds were turned away for failing to provide proof of either at the gate.
That last layer of tracking was from the city’s vaccine ambassadors, the public health workers who promote the shot in Chicago’s communities, Arwady said.
“Their numbers were absolutely consistent with what Lollapalooza was seeing, and that was in thousands and thousands of clickers,” Arwady said. “This over 90% is real.”
As of Tuesday, the city’s positivity rate stood at 3.3%, up from 2.6% last week.
Despite rising case numbers, Arwady stressed 99.9% of vaccinated Chicagoans have not tested positive for COVID-19 since they got the shot. She added that 99.99% of that group has not been hospitalized with COVID-19.
“Definitely cases are on the rise,” Arwady said while again requesting people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. “The delta variant is here. We’ve been watching it rise over the last few weeks. I expect that to continue.”
The average number of new daily coronavirus cases in Illinois topped 2,000 on Tuesday for the first time since early May.
State health officials Tuesday reported 2,682 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, bringing average number of daily cases over the past week to 2,059. That’s the highest seven-day average since the week ending May 10, when the state was recording 2,088 cases per day.
As of Monday night, there were 1,107 coronavirus patients in hospitals statewide, the first time since June 1 that more than 1,000 people in Illinois have been hospitalized with COVID-19. Over the past week, there has been an average of 938 COVID-19 patients in hospitals per day, more than double the average of 423 patients during the week ending July 2.
With the delta variant contributing to a nationwide surge, there also has been a dramatic rise in the number of people in Illinois with severe cases, requiring treatment in intensive care units and with ventilators.
The state was averaging 194 patients in ICUs with COVID-19 per day as of Monday, up from an average of 100 during the week ending July 2, a 94% increase. An average of 74 were on ventilators, up from an average of 40 during the week ending July 2, an 85% increase.
While cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, the number deaths per day has remained in single digits since late June, with the exception of the week ending July 12, when the state averaged 10 deaths per day.
Deaths from COVID-19 lag behind cases and hospitalizations, so it remains to be seen how well the prevalence of vaccinations helps prevent a later wave of deaths from the current infections. During the third wave of cases this spring, when a smaller portion of the population had been vaccinated, the average number of deaths hit 32 per day for the week ending May 15. Overall, the average number of daily fatalities peaked at 155 in early December.
The state reported eight more fatalities Tuesday, bringing the overall death toll to 23,458 since the start of the pandemic. In all, there have been 1,427,901 known cases of COVID-19 statewide.
With the state now undergoing a fourth wave, vaccinations are on the rise once again after falling off dramatically throughout July.
The state has averaged 28,250 vaccine doses administered per day during the week ending Monday, the highest level since an average of 34,324 during the week ending July 2. The average dipped as low as 16,423 per day around Fourth of July weekend.
But with just under 59% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, the vaccination effort remains far from its April peak, when more than 100,000 shots were being administered each day.
Also Tuesday, the city added five more states to the optional travel advisory that recommends unvaccinated people returning from certain areas in the U.S. to quarantine for 10 days or test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Puerto Rico are the new states and territories, making the total 19 states and two territories, according to a public health department news release.
The full list of the areas under the guidance is: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Those regions have passed the threshold of 15 daily cases per 100,000 residents, subjecting them to the advisory.