Crusader Staff Report
Gary residents who travel to Chicago for work can continue commuting with no restrictions after the nation’s third largest city on Tuesday, September 8 decided not to place Indiana on its quarantine list.
The decision relieved concerns among thousands of residents in Northwest Indiana who work in Chicago during the coronavirus pandemic. However, Chicago officials will continue to monitor Indiana’s COVID-19 cases and may decide to place the state on its quarantine list in the future.
Gary is just over 31 miles from Chicago. The average commute to the Windy City is just 38 minutes. For decades, many Gary residents enjoyed making higher salaries in Chicago while appreciating the affordable cost of living in Gary.
During the pandemic, many of Chicago’s office buildings remain empty as employees work from home. For Gary residents who still work in Chicago during the health crisis, lighter traffic has made the commute easier. However, having Indiana residents cross the Illinois border from a state with rising coronavirus cases has been a concern for Chicago health officials.
Questions remain however, whether Chicago will enforce the order if Indiana is placed on the list. And with fewer COVID-19 cases in Northwest Indiana than downstate, questions remain whether Chicago’s health officials are penalizing neighbors across the border along with all Indiana residents.
According to Stats Indiana, which uses Indiana IT-40 returns for the tax year 2015, some 35,752 Lake County residents travel to Illinois for work. Many use the South Shore Line that terminates at Chicago’s Millennium Park train station.
Last week, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced that her office was considering placing Indiana on the quarantine list, with the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases. But Arwady on Tuesday decided to keep Indiana off the list for several reasons.
Arwady said one of the reasons for her decision was the fact that Indiana had recently changed the way it reports its coronavirus data and that state colleges have marked a large spike in cases.
“We have had some concern about Indiana last week, but they’re doing better,” Arwady said.
On September 1, Arwady said Indiana crossed the average of 15 cases per 100,000 residents, sitting at 15.8 last Tuesday.
“If we don’t see improvement across the state then we will add them next week,” Arwady said last week.
As of Monday, more than 100,000 individuals in Indiana tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to state health officials, adding 596 new cases and four additional deaths.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate for all tests remained steady at 5.4 percent on Monday, and among unique individuals tested, that figure also stayed consistent at 7.4 percent health officials said.
Kentucky was added and California and Puerto Rico were removed after both saw consistent case averages below the travel order threshold, city officials said.
Idaho, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii were also reported to be under the required threshold for the quarantine list but will need to remain at that level for another week before being officially removed, according to health officials.
The city’s travel order is evaluated every Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday. As states are removed from the list, the change takes effect immediately.
The emergency order now requires anyone visiting or returning to the city from one of 21 locations to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Chicago on Tuesday removed three states from its travel order. Iowa, Kansas, and Utah all fell off the quarantine list after falling below the city’s threshold.
Chicago adds states to its quarantine list if they have “a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average.” If they fall below that threshold, they could be removed as well.
Arwady said travelers entering or returning to Chicago from “states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases” will need to quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state.” Essential workers could be exempt from the quarantine requirement, however, as long as their employer certifies their work in writing.
The states currently included are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. Chicago’s travel order first began on July 6.
As of Wednesday, September 9, approximately 1,412 Gary residents have been infected with COVID-19 and 78 have died from the disease.