New Covid

Scientifically accurate atomic model of the external structure of the SARS-CoV-2. Each "ball" is an atom. Cobalt is membrane, turquoise is spike glycoprotein, crimson is E protein, green is M protein, orange is glucose.

Residents of ZIP code 61615, covering the northern half of Hyde Park and southern Kenwood, have joined 35 of the 60 total Chicago ZIP codes that have 70% of their aged-12-and-older residents vaccinated against COVID-19, though 60619, covering South Shore, remains one of three where fewer than 50% of eligible residents are vaccinated.

At an Aug. 31 press conference, public health Commissioner Allison Arwady said 50% is a floor: not good enough, but an important first benchmark.

She noted that South Shore and the two other ZIP codes have been targeted with rapid response teams and Protect Chicago canvassers, spreading information about vaccines house by house. 

There is also misinformation at play. "You've got to remember, people are always making the decision that they think is best for themselves and their family," Arwady said. "So they're reading something or they're hearing something that makes them scared about the vaccine or worried that the vaccine is going to be worse than the protection that can come from it."

Access is also an issue. Especially for low-income people, there remain problems of side effects and missing work, Arwady said.

Citywide, the number of cases per day remains in the "high" range in the city's risk matrix, though test positivity is in the "lower" range, below 5%. Both metrics are flat; Arwady suggested the city's mask mandate is helping stop the disease's spread. The number of hospital beds, both intensive care and non-ICU, occupied by COVID-19 patients is increasing into the "substantial" range, however.

Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated people are increasing, though the vast majority of vaccinated Chicagoans are not known to the Public Health Department to have been infected. But whereas vaccinated people's case rate did not markedly increase during the springtime alpha variant-driven surge, early in the vaccine rollout, their case rate is now, though substantially less than unvaccinated people's.

"No vaccine is 100% protective," Arwady said. "We are seeing some more of these breakthrough infections, and that is why the indoor mask mandate is in place."

Nearly all — 99.99% — of vaccinated Chicagoans have not been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Unvaccinated Chicagoans 18 to 59 years old have the highest case rates. Case rates remain low among Chicago children — the coronavirus is less likely to infect children than adults — though they are expected to rise, mirroring community levels.

More than 60% of adult Chicagoans have gotten their first dose of vaccine, and adolescent vaccinations are increasing at the quickest rate; almost 59% of 12- to 17-year-olds have gotten a first dose. The rate of shots has increased 15% since early July, to an average of more than 4,500 each day.

"I really encourage Chicagoans: if you've not made that decision yet, there's no shame in that, there's no problem with that, but please make the decision now," Arwady said. "We want to keep you out of the hospital, and we want to keep you from infecting others. And the best way to protect yourself and everybody else is to get that vaccine."

Only the Loop ZIP codes and two on the North Side lakefront have 80% of their eligible residents vaccinated. Some countries like Denmark have passed this threshold, Arwady said, and she would like the whole city to pass it, too, for the effect it would have on stamping out community outbreaks.

Arwady said there is worry about the coming flu season alongside the continuing need for hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients. She said COVID-19 boosters will likely be available at the same time as flu shots, if people want them.

"You are also welcome to separate those, but it is important that everybody over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine. It's more important than ever," she said. "And then obviously if people have not yet gotten a first dose of COVID vaccine, that's the most-important thing. And then if and when we get this recommendation for boosters, people should also get those."

Even without the delta variant, Arwady would have expected a rise in COVID-19 cases in the fall and winter. But she said she did not anticipate the delta-driven surge this summer — an unanswered question is to what degree the surge has been so bad in the South because people stay indoors, in air-conditioned spaces, versus the milder Northern states.


Case positivities in three out of four lakefront mid-South Side ZIP codes is in the "high" range of Chicago's COVID-19 risk metric per data from Aug. 22-28, above 5%.

  • In 60653, covering North Kenwood and Oakland, 44 people tested positive for COVID-19 out of 913 tests — a 5.5% positivity — down from 56 the week before, and no one died, down from one the week before. The number of tests performed dropped 21%, and 41.5% of all residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before; 51.5% of eligible residents, aged 12 and older, are fully vaccinated.
  • In 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, 53 people tested positive out of 1,281 tests, up from 36 the week before — a 4.4% positivity — and no one died, the same as the week before. The number of tests performed rose 3%, and 57.9% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before; 64.9% of eligible residents are vaccinated.
  • In 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, 79 people tested positive out of 1,309 tests, up from 75 the week before — a 6% positivity — and no one died, down from one the week before. The number of tests performed rose 1%, and 41.4% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.4% from the week before; 48.9% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
  • In 60649, 66 people tested positive out of 1,484 tests — a 5% positivity — up from 40 the week before, two people died, up from none the week before. The number of tests performed was flat, and 36.4% of residents are fully vaccinated, up 0.5% from the week before; 42.9% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

Citywide, 55.7% of all residents are vaccinated. The numbers are accurate as of Sept. 2 and are listed at chi.gov/coviddash.

The city's website for free COVID-19 testing is chicagocovidtesting.com; more information is available at chi.gov/covidtesting. 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.

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.

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