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COVID-19 cases surge in 16 Black zip codes amid high-risk warning

A Crusader analysis shows the positivity rates in 16 Black zip codes on December 26 jumped to the highest level in two weeks, as rising cases force city officials to urge residents to get vaccinated and wear masks in public settings.

With anticipated upcoming vaccination clinics, Chicago is on the brink of being assigned high-risk status, as the city’s average positivity rate climbed to 6.7 percent after remaining at 6.2 for two weeks, according to the latest data from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

In Chicago’s Black neighborhoods, seven Black zip codes were even higher than the city’s 6.7 percent average as holiday gatherings swing into high gear for Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The positivity rates that remain the highest in 16 Black zip codes are in Bronzeville (60615), South Chicago (60617), Auburn Gresham (60620), Hegewisch (60633), Austin (60644) and Ashburn (60652).

Crusader analysis of data from the CDPH dashboard also shows those same zip codes have positivity rates higher than the city’s 6.7 percent average.

In zip code 60652, the positivity rate of 7.5 percent was the highest among the 20 Black zip codes. Data also shows that 60652 had the highest positivity rate for three consecutive weeks.

Since December 4, the positivity rate in 60652 has been higher than the city average. It was a whopping 11 percent on December 4 before it dropped to 8 percent on December 11. The positivity rate then rose to 8.8 percent on December 19 before dropping to 7.5 percent on December 26.

Despite the rising cases, there were only two COVID-19 deaths in the 20 Black zip codes, the lowest in months, according to CDPH data.

Days before Christmas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned of a mask advisory after she said the city is expected to move from a “medium” risk level to a “high” risk level in the coming week.

“Cases, as many of you have already heard, are on the rise in our city and nationwide, and we expect to reach the ‘high’ level soon,” Lightfoot said during a press conference Thursday morning, December 22.

About 43 other counties across Illinois moved into the “high” risk level last week.

“I am relieved we are still at the Medium Level, but I expect that may change in the coming weeks. We know that with lots of gatherings for the holidays, there is an increased risk of transmission,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D.

“I want to remind people, as you gather with loved ones, enjoy each other’s company—but do so safely. We can protect each other if we mask up, think about testing ahead of gathering, and most importantly, get the new, updated booster vaccine.”

According to the latest statistics, 7,973 Chicagoans have died of COVID-19, including 3,345 Blacks.

Citywide, about 71.4 percent of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents are fully vaccinated but only 56.3 percent of the city’s 768,524 Black residents have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccinations, according to the latest health data. Only 29.8 percent or 228,797 Blacks have received an additional booster shot, according to CDPH data.

vaccinated rates

Arwady and Lightfoot repeatedly stressed on December 22 the need for residents to get vaccinated and boosted to prevent a surge during the holidays.

Arwady said more than 5.6 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered to Chicagoans since the vaccines became available in December 2020. That includes 500,000 updated bivalent boosters, which represents about 1 in 5 adults and less than 2 in 5 older adults.

CDPH also offers the following recommendations during family gatherings and other holiday activities:

  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
  • For most Chicagoans, this means getting the new, updated booster vaccine that came out in the Fall of this year.
  • This vaccine has now been approved for everyone 6 months and older.
  • If you haven’t had a COVID-19 vaccine since Labor Day, you have not received the new bivalent booster, and you are not up to date.
  • Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot.
  • This is especially important for young children and seniors who are at the most risk of serious illness from the flu. Every year, people die from the flu in the U.S.
  • Consider taking a COVID test before gathering with friends or family for the holidays.
  • All households are eligible to receive 4 free COVID tests by U.S. Mail.
  • To order tests, go to COVIDTests.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.
  • Wear high-quality masks in crowded settings, especially when you don’t know the vaccination status of others, and when traveling.
  • Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home if you’re sick, even if you are vaccinated.
  • Improve ventilation in your home. This could be as simple as cracking a window.
  • COVID-19 Bivalent Booster Updates
  • As of December 21, 18.4 percent of all Chicagoans age 5 and up have received the updated COVID booster vaccine, compared to 14.6 percent of all Americans. One in five Chicago adults 18 and older have received a bivalent booster. As of December 21, more than 494,000 doses of the updated booster have been administered to Chicagoans.
  • This new, updated vaccine, known as the bivalent booster, is designed to better protect against Omicron subvariants as well as original strains of the virus. The bivalent booster generates a stronger immune response against current and future Omicron subvariants.
  • COVID-19 By The Numbers
  • The CDC determines COVID-19 Community Levels as Low, Medium, or High, based on the number of new local COVID-19 cases, regional COVID-19 hospital admissions, and COVID-19 hospital capacity in the prior week. The Levels were developed to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest local COVID-19 data.
  • CDPH also continues to track and report COVID-19 hospital burden, specifically for Chicago hospitals, every day on its dashboard and uses this local hospital data to make further mitigation decisions. Visit chi.gov/coviddash for the Chicago COVID-19 daily data dashboard.

CDPH announced additional family vaccination clinics at City Colleges of Chicago in 2023. The clinics will offer flu shots, COVID-19 vaccines, and the updated bivalent booster to all eligible Chicagoans. The schedule is:

  • Saturday, January 7, Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd.
  • Saturday, January 14, Richard J. Daley College, 7500 S. Pulaski Road.
  • Saturday, January 21, Olive Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn Ave.
  • Saturday, January 28, Wilbur Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave.
  • Saturday, February 4, Kennedy King College, 6301 S. Halsted St.
  • Saturday, February 11, Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

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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