Chicago reports more young adults testing positive for virus
CHICAGO (AP) — Young people have made up the largest percentage of new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Chicago in recent weeks and city officials warned Wednesday that the trend could lead to the closure of bars or other businesses.
City health data showed 29% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases since June 15 have been among people ages 18 to 29, said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. People ages 30 to 39 made up the second largest percentage of confirmed cases. That’s a stark change from May, when cases of the virus peaked in the city and overwhelmingly affected older people.
Young people do have a lower risk of serious complications from COVID-19, but they still can happen, Arwady said at a news conference at City Hall. She pointed to the case of a Chicago woman in her 20s who required a double lung transplant because of severe damage caused by the virus. And once infected, younger people can spread the virus to older people who are more vulnerable, she said.
“This disease does not discriminate,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “It attacks everyone.”
As of Wednesday, there had been 7,226 deaths related to COVID-19 and 156,693 confirmed cases in Illinois since the start of the pandemic.
Chicago reported an average of 192 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past seven days.
Lightfoot said that if that figure tops 200 cases, the city might consider changes to its strategy for reopening businesses so that it can try to avoid the larger surges being seen in many states that were more aggressive about lifting virus restrictions.
Options could include closing down bars again if data suggests that people gathering in them has led to increased cases, she said.
“We hope that we don’t have to take closure steps ... but as is now I think well known across the country, bars pose a particular challenge,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve emphasized to bars: We’re not messing around, you’ve got to follow the guidance.”
Amid rising case counts, California’s governor this week shut down bars and indoor restaurant dining along with some other types of businesses. Louisiana’s governor also limited bars to takeout or delivery service, leading many to close in New Orleans.
City-ordered setbacks could be avoided in Chicago if people of all ages wear face coverings and keep their distance from others, Arwady said.
“Now more than ever, we need you all to do the things that have gotten us this far,” she said.
Bar and restaurant closures would be an automatic, first-step mitigation in Illinois for any of the state’s 11 regions in a surge-response plan released Wednesday by Gov. J.B Pritzker’s administration. It spells out how and when rising indicators of a surge in various parts of the state would necessitate the closing of bars and restaurants, and if more severe, other retail shops or gathering places.
The only substantive change in strategy was carving up the state’s four virus-watch regions into 11 smaller areas, including two that cover Chicago and surrounding suburban Cook County. Pritzker was criticized for the state’s initial approach because much of northeastern Illinois was in the same region as hard-hit Chicago.
Associated Press writer John O’Connor contributed from Springfield, Ill.