Chicago (USA) July 31: U.S. city of Chicago now recommends that everyone over the age of two wear masks when indoors as the city reached 206 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, reported the Chicago Tribune.
In a statement issued Friday, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommended that "businesses, employers, and event organizers require universal masking in all public indoor settings." The new guidance keeps masks outdoors optional and makes no changes to the recommendations for social distancing.
"We are taking this step to prevent further spread of the very contagious Delta variant and to protect public health," said Allison Arwady, the city's public health commissioner, in the statement. "This isn't forever, but it is necessary to help decrease the risk for all Chicagoans right now."
Cook County was added on Thursday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list of areas experiencing "substantial" COVID-19 transmission. Cook, DuPage, McHenry and Will counties in the Chicago area, and 80 others statewide have all met the threshold where masks are recommended for everyone indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC announced the new guidelines Tuesday for counties experiencing "substantial" or "high" transmission, as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surged across the country. The office of the Illinois Secretary of State announced on Tuesday to reinstitute mask policy in all Driver Services facilities, Secretary of State offices and the Illinois State Capitol Building starting from Aug. 2; Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered on Thursday that masks be worn at all state facilities under his control.
Illinois health officials on Friday reported 2,348 new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, the second time in three days the tally topped 2,000. Over the past seven days, the state averaged 1,669 new daily cases, up roughly 46 percent from the previous week's average of 1,140 cases per day.
Illinois recorded a peak of 3,390 daily cases in mid-April during the spring surge.
Along with new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations are also on the rise in Illinois. As of Thursday night, 903 people were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, bringing the seven-day average for hospitalizations to 796, the highest level since the week ending June 9, when the state was averaging 816 COVID-19 patients in the hospital each day, the local newspaper reported.