CHICAGO — Chicago’s top health official said Sunday the city has “no goal or current plans to close down Chicago again.”
But Dr. Allison Arwady said “we need people once again to step up” to get vaccine and, for now, use masks indoors — even those who are vaccinated.
“In Chicago, we can be open and be careful at the same time,” Arwady said. “Being careful means getting vaccinated.”
City officials said they continue to advise, not require, people to wear masks indoors. But at an unusual Sunday news conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot also strongly stated — following a question about Lollapalooza fans crowding onto CTA lines — that anyone traveling on public transportation should wear a mask. The CTA requires masks to be worn on buses, trains and platforms and in stations.
Lightfoot said everyone in the city “has the tools right now to fight this virus and the variant.”
“The vaccine. The vaccine. The vaccine,” Lightfoot said. “That’s the tool we have to help ourselves, to help our family, to help our community and our city. ... We need people to mask up and vax up.”
Arwady sought to put the rising case numbers in context, noting that they’re not approaching the rates seen in a series of previous surges, and to debunk myths about the vaccine, such as that thousands of people have died from the shots, that they cause infertility or that they implant microchips.
“That is not true,” she said repeatedly. She encouraged people to ask questions of experts or a trusted medical professional, do research and “don’t simply take the word of someone who is posting on Facebook because there is a lot of misinformation.”
And despite recent reports of breakthrough cases, where fully vaccinated people test positive for coronavirus, Arwady stressed that the vast majority of current coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are not inoculated, and that 99.9% of vaccinated Chicagoans have not been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Most of Chicago’s and Illinois’ COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in June as cases fell and vaccination rates rose. But that began to change in recent days with the current surge of the delta variant, which the CDC said can be more easily spread by people who are vaccinated, even if it doesn’t tend to make them seriously ill.