COVID-19 cases nearly doubled as deaths increased in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods after a post-Thanksgiving surge in American cities. Impacting cities across the country, the surge has health officials renewing calls for mask mandates and booster shots.
As of December 5, about 14 out of 20 Black zip codes in Chicago had positivity rates higher than the city’s average of 5.7 percent, while seven people died from the disease, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health.
On November 14, before the Thanksgiving holiday, just four Black zip codes had positivity rates of more than 4.4 percent, which placed the city’s health status at medium risk. Overall, the positivity rate for Chicago’s 20 Black zip codes was 3.5 percent on November 14, compared to 6.7 percent on December 5.
Many Black zip codes have seen positivity rates double since November 14. The zip code 60652 (Ashburn, West Lawn, Chicago Lawn) had the highest positivity rate at 11 percent, followed by 60623 (North Lawndale, South Lawndale), which had a 9.1 percent rate. Zip code 60616 (Douglas, Armour Square) also had a 9.1 percent positivity rate. In zip code 60615 (Grand Boulevard, Washington Park, Hyde Park), the positivity rate was 8.7 percent.
Chicago health officials warned of a surge in cases during Thanksgiving when indoor gatherings increased due to the start of the holiday season. With holiday parties, concerts and other indoor gatherings, health officials are urging individuals to get boosted and vaccinated for the flu and RSV virus that is sweeping the country.
As of November 29, 15.9 percent of all Chicagoans age 5 and up have received the updated COVID-19 Bivalent booster vaccine, compared to 12.7 percent of all Americans.
Among eligible Chicagoans (those who have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series), 23 percent have received their updated booster vaccine.
However, there continues to be disparities by race and ethnicity. Among eligible Chicagoans, 34.8 percent of white residents have received the updated booster, compared to 25.2 percent of Asian residents; 18.4 percent of Black/non-Latinx residents and 13.5 percent of Latinx residents. As of November 29, more than 429,000 doses of the updated booster have been administered to Chicagoans.
Everyone age 5 and up who has previously been vaccinated against COVID-19 is eligible to receive the new, updated vaccine, known as the bivalent booster, which is designed to better protect against the Omicron subvariants BA.4-5 as well as original strains of the virus. The bivalent booster generates a stronger immune response against current and future Omicron subvariants.
Nationally, other cities are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. In Los Angeles County, the largest county in the country, health officials are considering reinstating a mask mandate as it averages 2,490 new COVID-19 infections every day, the highest number recorded since August 26, according to health department data.
At a recent press conference, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Los Angeles County reached “medium” COVID-19 transmission levels and will require face coverings if it reaches the “high” category.
In New Jersey, health officials reported 1,179 COVID-19 cases and nine confirmed deaths on Monday, December 5, as the transmission rate continues to climb following the Thanksgiving holiday.
New Jersey officials said the real count is likely much higher due to several people testing positive with at-home rapid tests and not reporting the results to health officials, or due to people not testing at all. Health officials also reported that 1,164 residents were hospitalized in the county due to the virus, which is the highest number of patients seen since August 11.
Two weeks ago, Cook County officials said they were “strongly recommending” that residents wear masks in indoor public settings but stopped short of requiring them after the COVID-19 case rate hit 100 per 100,000 residents.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 51 of Illinois’ 102 counties are at the Medium Level (up from 41 last week) and 12 are at the High Level (five last week).
In addition, health officials say both Chicago and the United States are seeing sharp increases in flu cases, well beyond where we were at this point in previous years. Young children and older adults are both at higher risk of severe outcomes like hospitalization and death from influenza and should be vaccinated to prevent such outcomes. There were 18 Chicagoans hospitalized in the ICU for influenza last week.
“As expected, we are seeing increases across all respiratory viruses with colder weather, including COVID, flu and RSV,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D.
“Our focus and priority remain avoiding that High COVID Community Level. This means preserving our hospital system from being overwhelmed with patients, while also protecting residents from the worst outcomes. Chicagoans can protect themselves and their families by getting their updated COVID-19 booster for everyone 5 and up and their seasonal flu shot for everyone 6 months and up.”
Both COVID-19 and flu vaccines are widely available at pharmacies across the city; find your vaccine location at vaccines.gov.
More vaccine clinics will be held next week for National Influenza Immunization Week. Walk-ins are welcome at these vaccination clinics, but registration is highly encouraged. Create an account and register for an appointment at https://getvaxchi.chicago.gov or by calling 312-742-3227.
The city continues to operate “Protect Chicago At Home,” its novel and completely free program that will bring COVID—and now flu-—vaccines right to any Chicagoan’s home and vaccinate up to 10 people in a single appointment.
COVID-19 vaccines, including primary doses and the new booster vaccines are available for anyone age 6 months and up. Now, Chicagoans age 6 months and up can also receive a flu vaccine at home if at least one member of the household is receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Appointments are available mornings, afternoons, and evenings, weekdays and weekends. Make an at-home appointment for your family at Chicago.gov/AtHome or by calling (312) 746-4835.
Find additional vaccination events in your neighborhood at Chicago.gov/vaxcalendar or call the city’s COVID-19 Hotline at (312) 746-4835.
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