Dr. Arwady Talks Moving Into Phase 3 'Cautious Reopening

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot joined CPD and CDPH on Tuesday morning to provide an update to the city after numerous days of protest, following the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Along with the update, the Mayor announced the city will move to Phase Three of Chicago's reopening framework on Wednesday, as previously planned.

"As we proceed to Phase Three tomorrow, I want to level set with everyone about the caution with what we must proceed. And there is a reason why we've called this phase, even before the events of the last few days, 'cautiously reopening' and why we branded this next phase as 'Be Safe, Chicago.' As you will hear from Dr. Arwady, the threat from COVID-19 is very much still with us, and we must maintain all of the public health guidance that got us to this point. I know we've seen a lot of people gathering in the streets all around the city, some in peacefully protest, others in other forms, but whether you were out there for legitimate and righteous reasons, or for some others, you have put yourself at risk. That risk is real, it is present and it will be with us for the foreseeable future. You need to take the precautions, not just to protect yourself, but for others in your network, in your home that you care about, because now you are at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection," Lightfoot said.

The Mayor said social distancing and hand washing, staying home if you have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, wearing a face mask in public is "critically important."

"We have to be cautious. We have to be careful. And that means you have to be cautious, have to be careful. Let me also say this: I know that there's a lot of trauma in our city. It existed before any of the events of the last 10 weeks. It's been heightened with COVID-19, and even moreso with what we've seen with the devastation in neighborhoods. That trauma's real. It is present. And I want to make sure people are taking advantage of the resources for free that exist all over the city," she said.

CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said as the city moves into Phase Three, "I am happy to announce that we have reached all of the public health metric to allow us to make that step forward.

"New cases continue, but they are on the decline and that has been a steady decline. That said, we are still adding hundreds of COVID cases every day, and we will pass 50,000 COVID cases, just in the city of Chicago in the next couple of weeks. Hospitalizations are similarly on the decline. We are seeing fewer new people being admitted to the hospital with COVID, but right now there are 1,100-plus people in Chicago hospitals with severe impact of COVID.

"Deaths are on the decline, but we've already had more than 2,100 residents die, and unfortunately that will continue to climb. Percent positivity, meaning what percentage of the tests we are doing across the city of Chicago has fallen below 15 percent benchmark that we had set, and that is great news, but it means that we are not done. This progress is fragile at best. You heard the Mayor reference that the reason we call Phase Three 'Cautious Reopening' is because now more than ever we need to be cautious," Dr. Arwady continued.

"In a city that still has a lot of COVID-19, our risk is simply higher than it is in other cities, other parts of the state, in other parts of the country. The chance that a gathering will have someone in it who has COVID-19, but doesn't even know it, because, of course, one of the most insidious things about this virus is it has the potential to spread even among people who do not have symptoms. That risk is present and it is higher," she said. "And so, again, if people have been in gatherings for any reason, protest-related or not, prior to the lifting of the stay at home order in Chicago which will be coming tomorrow, you are at increased risk for spreading COVID. And again, we encourage and ask people as much as possible to please keep a 14-day self-quarantine. At a minimum, we need you to limit close contact with our most vulnerable Chicagoans. And who is that? People over 60, people with underlying medical conditions."

Arwady said you hear me say that over and over again, but "81 percent of the deaths in Chicago from COVID have been among people over 60. Even though, only 18 percent of Chicago is over 60; 92 percent of our deaths have been in people with underlying medical conditions lead off my diabetes, hypertension, and lung disease.

"As as we move ahead, cautiously reopening, I know everybody is excited to be able to start taking steps forward, and so am I, but our success at the end of the day does not come down to how much testing we get, or how much response capacity we build, or how good our next set of metrics will be, although I promise we will continue to grow in those ways and make sure that in the ways in which we reopen, the ways in which our businesses and other industries reopen are as safe as they can be.

"Risk is not gone here, and it will not be," Dr. Arwady said. "And the biggest predictor on how well we do in Stage 3 does not have to do with the exact timing of reopening, or the exact percentages that we set, or the barriers that we put in place - it comes down to the individual decisions that you make everyday. We need you, please, not to forget about COVID and to limit the opportunities that it has to spread.

"As we move forward, please, keep doing what has worked so well, so far here in Chicago: Keep staying home, if you're even a little bit sick, or you've been potentially exposed to someone with COVID. Keep that six-foot distance...Keep wearing the cloth face coverings. Keep doing the hand hygiene, and keeping thinking about yourself, but also others," Dr. Arwady.