Crusader Staff Report
Once again Indiana is in danger of being included on Chicago’s quarantine travel order next week, Chicago’s top doctor announced Tuesday, October 6, while disapproving of the neighboring state’s recent reopening.
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) said Indiana is now averaging more than 15 cases per day per 100,000 population, the threshold to be added to the city’s travel quarantine order. If Indiana doesn’t get its daily case average under 15 by next week, it will be added to the list.
A travel listing would affect thousands of Indiana residents who commute to Chicago every day for work. Critics say the potential listing unfairly penalizes cities in Northwest Indiana, which has fewer cases than other regions in the state.
CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Indiana is not being added to the list right away, despite being above the city’s threshold for cases, to give people time to plan ahead.
“For the states that border us – whether that’s Wisconsin, Indiana – we have made it a practice all along that if we see one of the states go above our cutoff for quarantine, we do give an announcement the week prior to give people a chance to potentially plan,” she said. “Also because we have sometimes managed to see states kind of turn that around fairly quickly and we would prefer not to disrupt travel unnecessarily.”
It’s not the first time city officials have warned that Indiana was close to being added to the quarantine list. Last September, Arwady said the Hoosier State was on the verge of going on the list, but the state’s infection rate dropped soon afterward, and Indiana has yet to be included in the travel order.
Indiana has seen a surge in cases and hospitalizations in the past two weeks. The seven-day daily average of cases is at a record 1,131. The state reported 30 deaths on Tuesday, the highest number since May 23. Statewide hospitalizations (1,138) also rose to their highest levels since late May. The five county Northwest Indiana region is also at its highest daily case average ever (133).
“I am very concerned that Indiana is a state that is wishing that COVID were over, and it’s not, and so I would encourage Chicago residents, if they are going to be traveling to Indiana, do the things that you know, work. Wear your mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, be especially careful,” Arwady said.
Meantime, Georgia and Texas have been removed from the quarantine list, effective immediately, and Alaska is being added to the list, effective Friday.
With the latest changes, the travel order now includes 22 states and territories: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Texas was added to the list last week, the second time it has been included in the travel order. CDPH said Texas saw a spike in cases last week “due to a data anomaly,” without which its cases average less than 15 per 100,000 population per day, so it has been removed from the list.
Georgia had been included on the quarantine list since the travel order first went into effect in July, and this is the first time its infection rate has dropped below 15 cases long enough to be removed.
Chicago’s quarantine mandate requires anyone who is arriving in the city from states considered to be COVID-19 hot spots to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days when they arrive in the city, including visitors to Chicago, and residents who are returning from travel to one of the states.
The list of states included in the order is updated weekly to include states with more than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average.
Essential workers are exempt from the quarantine mandate if they must travel for work, but should only leave home for work, and avoid public spaces as much as possible.
Exceptions also apply for those leaving home for medical treatment, or parental shared custody reasons; and for people for whom self-quarantine “is not possible, practicable or advisable.”
Travelers who are just passing through designated states for less than 24 hours are not required to self-isolate when they arrive in Chicago, but if a state on the list is their final destination on a trip, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Chicago, even if they were in that state for less than 24 hours.
For Wisconsin, the order applies to people from Wisconsin traveling to Chicago for non-work purposes and to Chicagoans returning from Wisconsin, unless they are deemed an essential worker. People who travel to Wisconsin, even if for less than 24 hours, still need to quarantine upon returning unless deemed an essential worker.
While people who violate the quarantine order can face fines of $100-$500 per day, up to $7,000, enforcement is almost entirely on the honor system. CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady has said officials are focusing on encouraging people to change their travel patterns, and to delay trips unless they’re absolutely necessary.
Although the city has issued warning letters to people they know have violated the quarantine order, officials have not issued any fines.