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'Signs Of Promise' In Latest COVID-19 Surge In Chicago, But City's Top Doctor Says It's Too Early To Say Cases Have Peaked

CHICAGO (CBS) -- While Chicago is still seeing a huge number of COVID-19 infections on a daily basis, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday there are some encouraging signs that cases are starting to decline, though she warned it's too soon to say the latest surge has reached its peak.

"There are some signs of promise in terms of the Omicron surge here," she said during a regular Tuesday Q&A session on social media. "I want to be very clear here that we need to see signs of progress for a number of days here."

Chicago is currently averaging 4,793 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week, down 8% from one week ago. The city's test positivity rate stands at 18.9%, down from 21% one week ago.

Arwady said case rates in Chicago are still "extremely high," but she said she's encouraged that the rate of infection appears to be slowing.

"We are on it, and we are following closely, but I just want people to recognize we do need to see some more days of improvement here before we could for sure say that things have peaked," Arwady said later Tuesday at City Hall.

Meantime, Chicago is averaging 187 hospitalizations per day, up 37% from a week ago, Arwady said, noting hospitalizations lag behind infections. Chicago is also averaging 17 COVID-19 deaths per day, up 25% from one week ago.

The number of ICU beds and ventilators in use for COVID-19 patients remain below the levels seen during the first two waves of the pandemic in 2020, and Arwady said that is because of how many people have been vaccinated, putting them at lower risk of severe illness. She also noted the vast majority of COVID patients currently on ventilators in Chicago are infected with the Omicron variant and are not vaccinated.

Arwady said it's still critical for people to double down on mitigations against COVID-19, particularly by getting vaccinated and getting a booster shot.

Vaccinations are on the rise in recent days in Chicago, with the city averaging 11,521 doses administered per day over the past week, up 19 percent from one week ago.

Meantime, Chicago made no changes to its COVID-19 travel advisory list on Tuesday, with every state and territory remaining on the list for the second week in a row.

Case rates in individual states and territories must drop below 15 per 100,000 population for two weeks in a row to be removed from the travel advisory.

City officials recommend people who aren't vaccinated get tested for COVID one to three days before heading to a state or territory on the travel advisory list, and again three to five days before returning to Chicago.

Public health officials also recommend unvaccinated people who visit a state or territory on the travel advisory list quarantine for at least seven days upon arriving in Chicago, even if they test negative. Unvaccinated people who don't get a COVID test should quarantine for at least 10 days.

The Chicago Department of Public Health said it's been almost a year (February 2021) since every state and territory has been the city's travel advisory.

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