Evanston health officials issue mask recommendations, but no mandate
EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Evanston is now at a "high" COVID community level, as defined by the CDC, due to rising hospitalizations, not just case numbers.
Over the past seven days, Evanston has reported 397 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, up from 305 the week prior.
As a result, Evanston's Health and Human Services has made the following recommendations based on CDC guidelines:
-Wearing a mask indoors in public irrespective of vaccination status including K-12 schools and other indoor public settings
-Wearing a mask or respirator that provides greater protection if you are a high risk individual for severe disease
-Wearing a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or have had an exposure to someone with COVID-19
-Socializing outdoors if possible and avoiding poorly ventilated indoor settings
-Getting tested before attending a family or public event. Home tests are ideal for this purpose
- Contacting your doctor right away to get treatment for COVID-19 if you are diagnosed
- Staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
- Following CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.
People flocking to restaurants in the north suburb Friday evening were seemingly unconcerned about rising COVID cases.
"We've been vaxxed, double vaxxed, triple vaxxed, and now it's time to start getting on with life," resident Mike Joyce said.
"I'm not too worried about it," Christina Joyce said. "People already are very much experienced about how to protect themselves."
Despite the elevated risk, Evanston's Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo said the city is not bringing back mask mandates.
"But, we also have that in our tool box, if we continue to see a sustained high transmission rate in Evanston," Ogbo said.
Instead, public health officials strongly recommend masking indoors, regardless of vaccine status and urge residents to get up to date with vaccination and boosters.
Ogbo said the same advice goes to Evanston Township High School students who are attending their prom this weekend.
"With any big event comes issues with contracting COVID," Ogbo said. "That is why it's necessary for individuals to follow these public health initiatives."
Across our area, only Kenosha and Racine counties in Wisconsin are at a "high" community level. Other Chicago area counties are at "medium" or "low" risk, with the city of Chicago also at "medium."
City officials say hospitalizations would need to double to go to the next level.
"It is possible we can go to high, but I don't think it is imminent in the next week certainly," Chicago Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "But this is why we asking while we are at "medium" to put masks back on try to gather outside if you can."
At the state level, officials said mask mandates are not being discussed.
"If we get in high, we're going to ask people to be really careful and avoid indoor crowded spaces when possible," said Dr. Amaal Tokars, acting director of Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
Cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise, but COVID-related deaths remain at a pandemic low. Officials credit the vaccine and effective treatments, and say now is the time to get vaccinated and boosted if you have not already.