Cook County, collar counties now at high community risk level for COVID-19, CDC says
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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added 15 Illinois counties to the high community risk level for COVID-19 – including Cook County and the collar counties.

The counties now on the high community level are Cook County – apparently including both the city of Chicago and suburban Cook County – as well as DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will, and Grundy counties. Boone, Lee, and Winnebago counties in Northern Illinois, and Fulton, Knox, Henderson, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties downstate, are also on the list.

“With 15 counties in Illinois now rated at a High Community Level, everyone in the state should be paying close attention to the guidance from public health authorities and taking action to protect themselves, their loved ones, and friends,” Illinois Department of Public Health Acting Director Amaal Tokars said in a news release. “Everyone should make sure they are up-to-date with vaccinations and booster shots. Wearing a mask in indoor public places and avoiding crowded indoor spaces as much as possible will also make a difference. If you are at risk of severe outcomes, you should also consider avoiding indoor activities in public places. And if you test positive, promptly contact a healthcare provider to discuss which treatment is right for you. The treatments are much more effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths when they are taken early in the course of the illness.”

In areas of high risk, the CDC recommends that everyone wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the advance to the high risk level was coming. But officials said that will not mean a return to mask or vaccine mandates, as hospitalizations from the virus remain low.

“We are not reinstating the mask or vaccine requirement mandates, because the health system in Chicago remains stable,” Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Ken Meyer said.

Arwady said, while the city is still recommending that people wear masks indoors, because the city is currently at the “medium risk” level for COVID-19, she doesn’t believe a mask mandate is necessary unless hospitals start to get overwhelmed with cases again.

“Here in Chicago, if our health care system is threatened, I would not hesitate to put a mask requirement back in place,” Arwady said. “The last thing we want is COVID to get out of control again.”

The city is averaging 28 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day, compared to more than 300 per day at the peak of the Omicron surge earlier this year.

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