New travel advisory policies implemented by the City of Chicago go into effect this week, and the city’s top doctor explains why the new mitigations were put in place.
Previously, anyone traveling to a high-risk COVID zone was encouraged to take a COVID test and self-quarantine for at least five days after returning, but under the new guidelines, those parameters have changed.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says the new measures and recommendations are consistent with changes made by the CDC.
“If you look across the United States, there are very few counties that are still high risk,” she said. “We made the decision (to switch because) the CDC hasn’t had a tool like this for a year and a half where you could easily see weekly what’s happening at the county level across the states. -United.”
The new protocols will follow changes made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, categorizing counties as low, medium, or high risk for COVID transmission.
The new metrics, in addition to being more detailed on a county-by-county basis, will give more weight to hospitalizations and hospital capacity, rather than strict case counts, officials say.
“The risk is really local. All epidemiology ultimately is local,” Arwady said of the more detailed statistics used to determine travel risk. “If you’re going to travel, I want you to know whether or not you should be more or less concerned about COVID.”
In medium-risk areas under the new protocols, people who are unvaccinated or at high risk of severe illness are encouraged to talk to their healthcare provider about whether they should wear masks or take other precautions.
For “high risk” communities under the new guidelines, residents will be encouraged to wear masks in public indoor spaces and take extra precautions when possible.
Unvaccinated residents will also be asked to self-quarantine for five days and take a COVID test within three to five days of traveling to a “high-risk” area.
Arwady says even vaccinated people should keep an eye out for the city‘s COVID transmission maps for the rest of the United States and should bring their maps with them when they travel.
“There are places that will continue to need it,” she said. “I would encourage you when traveling to put one of these home COVID test packs right in your bag.”
All travelers are encouraged to be up to date on COVID vaccinations and self-monitor for symptoms of the virus. Chicagoans are also encouraged to take home a COVID test to use if symptoms develop while traveling.
As it stands, 12 states and territories are under “high risk” on Chicago’s travel advisory, including Texas, Kentucky, Colorado and Nevada.