COVID data raises questions about lifted travel ban allowing foreign travelers to arrive in Chicago

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel, Ross Weidner and Jonathan Fagg WLS logo
Thursday, November 11, 2021
COVID data raises questions about lifted travel ban
New COVID testing data raises questions about the travel ban lifted Monday allowing foreign travelers to flow into Chicago's O'Hare airport.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The U.S. commerce secretary came to O'Hare Airport on Monday and said reopening international travel would be a "real shot in the arm," to Chicago's economy.

Another set of stats tells a different story: COVID surging across Europe; so bad that if many European nations were U.S. states, they would currently be on the notorious city of Chicago travel advisory list.

SEE ALSO | US eases international travel restrictions, lifting ban on visitors

After almost 20 months of pandemic separation, the reunions at O'Hare airport earlier this week were pictures of thankfulness.

Families from foreign nations flowing into the U.S., from corners of the world that had been cut off by COVID-19.

Many arrived from Europe, even though COVID cases and deaths are spiking overseas, with more than a 55% rise in new cases during the last four weeks alone.

"We only have to look at the roller coaster epidemiological curve to know that when you are down the mountain you're usually about to go back up another one and the fact that Europe is climbing that mountain again should really stand everybody up around the world and say what are we going to do," said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization Emergencies Programme.

The latest city of Chicago map shows most of the U.S. in the orange danger zone. Health officials have been telling unvaccinated travelers to be tested and quarantine upon arrival in Chicago.

But, as European travelers are arriving, the data shows that of 28 European countries removed from the travel ban this week, 21 would be on that "high-risk" map of they were states -- because they average more than 15 daily cases per 100,000 people.

And seven European nations rank worse than any U.S. state on Chicago's travel advisory list: Slovenia, Estonia, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Austria.