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With Omicron Wave Falling Fast, Officials Say COVID-19 Mitigations Could Soon Be Relaxed In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Last month, proof of vaccination mandates went into place for restaurants, bars, gyms, and other venues across the Chicago area.

But as CBS 2's Chris Tye reported Tuesday, they could soon be going away.

Two weeks ago, the city's top doctor – Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Alison Arwady - said the city's Omicron wave peaked over the holidays. COVID-19 cases were falling.

Now, the department says they are falling even faster than they thought they might - and that could speed up the relaxing of rules.

The city of Chicago is now seeing 1,037 new COVID-19 cases per day – a 48 percent drop in a week. The city is also seeing 97 hospitalizations per day – down 41 percent from last week, and 13 deaths per day – down 44 percent from last week.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Arwady said masks and proof of vaccination rules could be relaxed by spring.
She is now thinking that could get moved up, but she is not getting specific.

"Yeah, I am feeling confident that it will be able to come off relatively soon," Arwady said, and if we keep seeing a 50 percent drop week after week, that could be quite soon."

There was also news Tuesday on the changing requirements around kids isolating if they test positive for COVID-19, or quarantining if they are a close contact of someone who did, for five days instead of 10. That policy changed Tuesday in the Chicago Public Schools system.

CPS Chief Executive Officer Pedro Martinez explained to reporters how it will work.

On the sixth day, when students return to class, they must keep their masks on at all times including outside, and keep six feet away from others while eating and drinking. Children who cannot put a mask on will still need to quarantine or isolate for all 10 days.

Nearly 12,000 students CPS were quarantined as of Tuesday, along with more than 400 staff. The test positivity rate within CPS is 1.1 percent, while for the city as a whole it is 4.5 percent.

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