Even with its world-class hospitals, officials say the city is not set up to handle the current rate of spread, and so the mayor taking sweeping action two weeks before Thanksgiving.
"You must cancel normal Thanksgiving plans, particularly if they include guests that do not live in your immediate household," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The advisory is part of a series of new measures called the "Protect Chicago" strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19. The new measures will take effect on Monday at 6 a.m. and last for at least 30 days.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases are increasing across the state and the city said it is on track to have 1,000 more people die from the virus by the end of the year. Mayor Lightfoot said the city is averaging 1,900 cases a day with some areas seeing positivity rates of 25%.
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As part of the advisory, Chicagoans are asked to only leave the house for work or school or essential needs, which include getting medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, getting takeout food or to receive deliveries.
"No visitors should be in your home unless they're essential workers, like home healthcare or education workers," Lightfoot said.
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The city is imposing a new capacity limit of 10 people on meetings and social events, including birthdays, weddings, business dinners, and funerals. This capacity limit does not supersede industry-specific guidelines, which can be found at chicago.gov/reopening.
Officials strongly recommend that residents not gather with anyone outside of their household, including trusted family members and friends. For Thanksgiving, it is recommended that families celebrate virtually instead of gathering in person.
"The next few months, winter, the flu and COVID fatigue have the potential to truly create a catastrophe that could be avoided here," said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. "I am more worried about COVID right now than I have been since March."
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Arwady said daily case counts, hospitalizations, the number of patients in ICU, and deaths have all tripled, and without bending the curve, Chicago is headed for catastrophe.
Lightfoot warned in the next seven weeks, the city could lose at least 1,000 more lives. Officials say that number could actually be closer to 1,800 people dead, according to some computer models.
With less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, Chicagoans are thinking deeply about how they will celebrate.
Rick and Janet Remiker are canceling their normal plans.
"We have extended family in Wisconsin and we're sad," Janet said. "Our niece has a new baby and we haven't been able to see her."
"I think it's unprecedented times and we just gotta suck it up and do what's best for the community," Rick said.
Many Chicagoans say COVID fatigue is real and worry people may feel more isolated not gathering on the holiday.
"There's definitely been times when the moment has seemed too much and you get tired...but you do know, things will pass...someday this will end," said resident Paul Rau.
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Many are bracing for more painful directives from the city.
"At some point shutting everything down that just puts people out of jobs and that's it's a double edged sword I guess," said Cory Byers.
Chicagoans are also asked to avoid all non-essential travel and if travel is necessary, to quarantine or get tested. Officials also emphasize residents should wear facemasks and follow social distancing protocols.
The city's updated color-coded travel order is now in effect, with travelers from states in the red category required to quarantine for 14 days.
"Chicago has reached a critical point in the second surge of COVID-19, demanding that we undertake this multi-faceted and comprehensive effort to stop the virus in its tracks," she added. "The gains we have made this past year have been the result of our willingness to work together. Even in this difficult moment, we will continue to unite as we always have for our city in order to halt the rise we're seeing, shake out of the fatigue we've been experiencing, and make the crucial difference in what our future is going to look like."
"The data are troubling, and I'm very concerned we could be looking at tens of thousands of more cases, which would overwhelm the healthcare system and lead to hundreds more deaths," said Arwady. "But we know what works and what we need to do to bend the curve. We did it once and I know we can do it again."
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The mayor's office said the city would also be implementing a targeted community outreach program to get the message out.
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The city update comes as Illinois public health officials have urged people to stay home as much as possible over the next three weeks. On Thursday, officials reported 12,702 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 43 deaths
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The test positivity rate, which is positive tests over total tests, jumped to 13.9%.
With deaths rising sharply, refrigerated trailers have been redeployed to some hospitals in Cook County by the medical examiner's office.
"It's something that we did during the first surge and they were definitely utilized unfortunately," said Natalie Derevyanny, Cook County Medical Examiner's Office spokesperson. "We anticipate that they will need to be utilized during this surge as well."