The positivity rate in three of Chicago’s Black zip codes has declined after three straight weeks of rising COVID-19 cases, according to a Crusader analysis of data from the Chicago Department of Public Health.
The news comes as health officials predict Chicago will enter high risk status by Friday as the Memorial Day weekend gets underway.
The latest data show that the positivity rate for the week ending May 24 declined in 16 of 20 Black zip codes. Last week the positivity rate was higher in all 20 Black zip codes than the previous week, as new cases rose for a third straight week.
Chicago’s positivity rate dipped to 6.2 percent Tuesday after rising for three consecutive weeks. The city is averaging 18 hospitalizations per day while the death rate declines.
In all 20 Black zip codes there were a total of three COVID-19 deaths in the past week, compared to one death the week ending May 17.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said she expects the positivity rate to continue to rise in the coming days and expects Chicago to be in the high risk zone by Friday.
“I do anticipate that Cook County, which includes Chicago, will move to high with the update [from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] later this week,” Arwady said in a Facebook Live posting on Tuesday. “And so, I would expect by Friday Chicago will probably be there.”
Arwady said she doesn’t expect the city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate that it dropped in February.
According to the CDC, a county will be considered at a “high community level” of COVID-19 if it is seeing more than 200 new weekly COVID cases per 100,000 residents, and if it is seeing either 10 or more new COVID admissions per 100,000 residents per week, or if it is seeing 10 percent or greater hospital bed use by COVID patients.
Statewide, COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to climb, with Illinois now averaging more than 6,000 new probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases per day.
It’s the first time in more than three months Illinois has seen the daily rate that high.
The latest positivity rates do not include the results of home COVID-19 test kits, which the government began offering this month for the second time this year.
Health officials believe the positivity rate in cities across the country could be higher because those infected with coronavirus usually don’t report it to health authorities after testing positive with their home kits.
This week, the Omicron BA2 subvariant became the dominant strain among new COVID-19 cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 58 percent of all new cases in America were caused by the new subvariant. Though more transmissible than its predecessor, the BA2 is less severe and leads to fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
Last week, the CDC recommended a second booster shot for people 50 in addition to residents 65 and older.
All eyes are on booster shots for children between 5 and 11. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), 60 percent of Illinois children between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated, while just 36 percent of those between the ages of 5 and 11 have completed a series.
The IDPH says that it will no longer conduct contact tracing via phone calls to individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and will instead use automated case notifications via SMS text message starting next month.
Beginning on June 1, IDPH officials say that they will no longer make case investigation phone calls to individuals who test positive for COVID-19, and that the contact tracing call center that had been established during the pandemic will close.
The good news is COVID testing across Chicago and in Illinois remains free at many sites.
In announcing another round of free home tests kits, the White House this week said that approximately 350 million kits have been delivered across the country, in U.S. territories and at overseas military bases, and says many have been delivered by the USPS within 48 hours.
Residents can now sign up to receive 8 free, at-home rapid antigen COVID tests in the mail, the federal government recently announced.
The government is now offering residents double the number of free COVID rapid antigen tests during its newest round of kit availability, according to an update by the United States Postal Service.
In previous rounds of test kit distributions residents could only claim up to four at-home COVID test kits per household.
Test kits will be shipped for free to residences, according to the United States Postal Service. Those tests will come in two separate packages, with four test kits in each package, the USPS says.
To order the free test kits, go to https://special.usps.com/testkits.