The coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and in Chicago, continues to get worse, as the city returns to a mask mandate with the delta variant-driven surge and the nation plans to administer booster shots to vaccinated Americans eight months after they received their second shot of a two-dose immunization.
On the mid-South Side, the four lakefront ZIP codes show relatively flat rates of cases (except in 60649, covering South Shore, where cases rose 57%, from 28 to 44, from Aug. 8-14 over the previous week) and deaths across all ZIP codes. The rate in vaccination uptake continues to increase quite slowly across the area, at less than half of a percentage point, and the rate of uptake in neighborhoods surrounding Hyde Park-Kenwood is disproportionately lower than the city's average.
The city began recommending all Chicagoans wear masks when more than 200 cases a day were reported. Now everyone 2 years old and older must wear them in indoor public places.
The mandate applies to bars and restaurants (customers can remove them when eating and drinking), gyms, and residential building and club commons areas. Masks can also be removed for beard shavings and facials. Workers can remove their masks at settings not open to the public, where they are working statically and 6 feet away from each other.
At an Aug. 18 press conference, public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she anticipates the delta surge will pass and the mandate will revert to a recommendation. Once the case count drops below 200, the recommendation will end.
The city does not currently expect to add additional business restrictions, but if hospitalizations increase to an "untenable" territory or the case count exceed 800, or "very high" risk, Arwady said more restrictions may come into place.
The city estimates that more than 800,000 Chicagoans have no immunity to COVID-19 whatsoever, and Arwady said "one or the other," the disease or vaccination, will happen to them.
Capacity limits could come back into play if case rates exceed 800 a day — at the height of the second wave, around 2,500 Chicagoans a day were testing positive for COVID-19 — or if hospital numbers "start to look problematic," she said, noting that hospital capacity in the South is now being pushed to the limit.
Should the Food and Drug Administration agree to the plan, COVID-19 booster shots will be available for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines eight months after their second doses beginning on Sept. 20. That means that the first people to receive the vaccine — health care workers, people living in nursing homes and older seniors — will receive the boosters.
In the meantime, while the city and three out of four mid-South Side lakefront ZIP codes are in the "lower" risk category of test positivity percentages (i.e. below 5%), 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, had 6.9% positivity, in the “substantial” risk territory, from Aug. 8-15, up from 5% the week before.
In 60653, covering North Kenwood and Oakland, 38 people tested positive for COVID-19 out of 1,141 tests — a 3.7% positivity — down from 43 the week before, and a person died, the same as the week before. The number of tests performed rose 5%, and 40.1% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before.
In 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, 37 people tested positive out of 1,191 tests, the same as the week before — a 3.3% positivity — and no one died, the same as the week before. The number of tests performed dropped 4%, and 56.8% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before.
In 60637, 57 people tested positive out of 1,099 tests, up from 54 the week before, and a person died, up from zero the week before. The number of tests performed dropped 12%, and 40.3% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before.
In 60649, 44 people tested positive out of 1,763 tests — a 3% positivity — up from 28 the week before, no one died, down from one the week before. The number of tests performed rose 43%, and 35.2% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before.
Citywide, 54.4% of Chicagoans are fully vaccinated. The numbers are accurate as of Aug. 19 and are listed at chi.gov/coviddash.
The city's website for vaccine information is chicago.gov/covidvax. The city's online platform for vaccine scheduling is zocdoc.com/vaccine. City operators are available at 312-746-4835 to handle any questions regarding the vaccine.
Up to 10 people at once can be vaccinated at their homes by appointment through the Protect Chicago at Home program; hours are weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Anyone who gets vaccinated (both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available) will receive $25 Visa gift cards, which can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. More information is at 312-746-4835 or chicago.gov/athome.
Neighborhood pharmacies, including Katsaros Pharmacy, 1521 E. 53rd St., are offering the vaccine by appointment and on a walk-in basis. Appointments at Katsaros are available online at katsarospharmacy.com for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Howard Brown Health is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone aged 16 and older, with sign-up at 872-269-3600. Friend Health is scheduling vaccine appointments at all three of its South Side locations at friendhealth.as.me; vaccines are also available on a walk-in basis. UChicago Medicine is also vaccinating everyone, regardless of patient status. The scheduling number is 1-888-824-0200.
The Cook County government is offering sign-up for vaccines at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.