Chicago’s top doctor expecting surge in Covid, respiratory viruses in winter


CHICAGO — Encouraging residents to get a series of shots is top of mind for Chicago’s top doctor.

Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady held a news conference alongside community partners Friday ahead of the Halloween weekend.

The entire Chicago area is in low community spread – but five counties in Illinois are seeing high transmission: Vermilion, Ford, Pike, Ogle and Stephenson. The state is recommending masking indoors in those places.

Dr. Allison Arwady is hoping to avoid that here in the coming months — and she Friday she dressed the part at a news conference.

“I am dressed today as a wizard with my crystal ball because I feel like everybody in Chicago is wanting me to predict the future,” she said.

She said she is looking past Halloween to the respiratory virus season when she expects to see another surge in Covid-19.

“My crystal ball tells me we are not going to make it through the winter unscathed from covid especially if we can’t get more people up to date with vaccines,” she said.

She’s encouraging those 5 and older who’ve been previously vaccinated to get protected ahead of time with the updated bivalent booster, which is designed to better protect against the dominant omicron subvariants. So far 15% of eligible Chicagoans have gotten it, double the national average.

“Covid is not top of mind, and it doesn;t need to be top of mind, but it also isn’t not over,” she said.

Covid isn’t the only concern. Arwady says Chicago is already seeing higher acute respiratory hospitalizations among children and higher rates of RSV than it has in the last two years.

“Right now in Chicago there are days when we only have a single digit number of pediatric ICU beds and that’s before the respiratory virus season really kicks in,” she said.

She and other community leaders who were on hand for the news conference encouraged anyone 6 months or older to also get the flu vaccine.

You can watch the entire press conference in the video below.

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