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Doctors Concerned About Possible Spike In Chicago COVID-19 Cases This Fall

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois has broken the 200,000 mark for total cases of COVID-19, and this week marks five months since it was deemed a pandemic. Now Chicago is on the list of cities doctors worry could see a spike in cases in the fall.

According to disease experts, Chicago leaders have done a good job, and most residents have, too. But the failure of the few is having a larger ripple effects on the many than expected.

When summer vacationers come home they will be bringing back more than memories.

"They go, they do things in more crowded areas where they're picking up more infections and then they bring it back to their hometown," said Dr. Emily Landon, University of Chicago Executive Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control. "It doesn't matter if your hometown is small or if it's big, if you have enough contact in that hometown you can start a pretty bad outbreak."

That's the forecast from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, too. Their Policy Lab, which studies regional spikes, has tremendous concern for large midwestern cities like Chicago and Milwaukee this fall.

"Newly infected individuals from summer vacations is concentrating risk in their urban neighborhoods. We would not be surprised to see vacation areas ebb while city epidemics continue to grow," they wrote.

And they expect it to grow among 18 to 29-year-olds.

"That age group definitely is letting us down," said Landon. "We could have done better with nursing homes in beginning, but now I think we're getting that under better control."

Five months into the pandemic experts say Chicago will be remembered as a leader for building out McCormick Place as an alternative care facility and Rush University Medical Center building out triage in its welcome center for non-COVID overflow.

Both have returned to normal, but those treating life as normal are the biggest risk to what is next.

"The few who are really getting an F, honestly, are going to bring it down for the rest of us, and make it so the rest of us experience life as though we all got an F," Landon don said.

She said the next two big COVID-19 storylines of concern will be continuance of testing shortages as college over-promise how much testing they can pull off and then vaccination.

Then getting a vaccine is just the beginning. Distributing it and getting people to believe it is in their best interest to take it will be harder than most expect.

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