CHICAGO (CBS) -- As COVID-19 cases continue to slowly rise in Chicago, city health officials say the city is now at "medium risk" level, and they recommend people resume wearing masks indoors again.
The Chicago Department of Public Health also said Chicagoans should make sure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, get tested if they're exposed to the virus, and continue to follow isolation and quarantine protocols if they test positive.
"We've been expecting to reach the Medium Level for some time now," CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. "It's not a cause for alarm, since most cases right now are mild and thankfully our COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths remain at or near all-time pandemic lows in Chicago. But it is reason for more caution, and for more care with masking, since more people in Chicago are infected with COVID right now. Remember that people can spread COVID for two days before they develop symptoms, so putting on a mask in public indoor settings is an easy way to help protect our city while we're at a Medium COVID Level."
The move to the medium risk level comes as Chicago's latest daily case average has risen to 754 cases per day, up 16% over the past week. The city's average positivity rate stands at 4.1%, up from 3.7% one week ago.
"Chicago moving into the Medium Level does not mean a citywide mask mandate, restrictions on public gatherings, or reinstatement of vaccination requirements at this time," Arwady said. "With the way the current COVID variants are behaving, those are measures we would consider if we reached the High COVID-19 community level—which we aren't close to reaching in Chicago right now. But we obviously don't want to get there, and exercising some more caution now will help us keep COVID in control in Chicago."
Health experts say this wasn't unexpected, but it has renewed the call for people to get boosters if they're eligible.
That includes those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The FDA is, but Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease expert with the University of Chicago Medicine, says that's less about that rare side effect and more about the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines providing more protection.
"This decision to restrict its use to certain individuals is not saying that the FDA's process didn't work, or that we weren't able to figure it out, it's not a safe vaccine; it's just saying we have a better option, so please use that one," Landon said.
Landon said those who've already had COVID-19 but contract it again, will likely find their symptoms are less severe, but risks remain for the immunocompromised.
Landon also suggests that people should wear masks indoors as a precaution. She adds that with unreported at-home positive tests, the case count is actually three to four times what is being reported.
She also warns that people who were infected with the Omicron variant in December or January could get COVID again, but will be a less severe case.
DuPage, Lake, and suburban Cook counties also moved to medium risk within the last two weeks.
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