Chicago’s record-breaking COVID-19 case surge is still filling hospitals, but some measure of “relief” could soon be near, the city’s top doctor said Tuesday.
Cases have dipped slightly along with the citywide positivity rate over the past few days, suggesting the peak of the Omicron surge might be approaching, Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
“The data is maybe giving a little sense of some potential relief. I am feeling that, but I can’t say for sure that we are flattening or past a peak,” Arwady said at a City Hall news conference. “We are beginning to see a flattening of the increase.”
Nearly 4,800 Chicagoans are still testing positive each day on average — about double any previous case surge the city has seen — but that rate is down about 8% from last week, according to city data.
The seven-day average testing positivity rate has also fallen from 21% to 18.9% in that time.
New COVID-19 cases by day
Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health
Coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, which typically lag a few weeks behind a stark rise in cases, are still on the upswing. About 187 Chicagoans are being admitted to hospitals with COVID each day — the highest rate ever — while the virus claims an average of 17 lives in the city each day.
“This is still a very bad surge and I don’t want people to think otherwise. I really don’t want people to think it’s sort of over. It is extremely not over,” Arwady said. “But this hopeful flattening that we are seeing right now — I’ve got to see it for at least a week to really trust it. … I am less concerned than I was even three or four days ago about where we are, but I’m still concerned about the hospitals.”
That concern was still being felt across Illinois as the state reported 7,353 people hospitalized with the virus as of Monday night, the most ever and an increase of more than 200 within 24 hours.
More than 28,000 new cases were announced statewide, a fourth straight day of leveling and relatively low numbers following daily counts of more than 42,000 and 44,000 last week. Since then, the statewide positivity rate has fallen from 15.2% to 12%.
“It’s too early to say if we have peaked,” Illinois Department of Public Health spokesperson Melaney Arnold said. “We are hopeful that with more vaccinations and boosters, and people wearing their masks, we can start seeing a downward trend.”
Either way, with intensive care units approaching capacity in several regions of Illinois, COVID-19 deaths can be expected to keep rising over the next few weeks. The state reported 92 more fatalities Tuesday, and has averaged 83 per day over the last week. That’s as bad as the death rate has been in a year.
COVID-19 vaccines greatly reduce the chances of ending up in a hospital or worse, even with Omicron. About 22% of Illinoisans 5 or older still haven’t gotten a shot.
For help finding one, visit chicago.gov/covidvax or call (312) 746-4835.