Over the time that we’ve been experiencing a global pandemic, we’ve had many ups and downs. From sharply increasing case numbers and deaths to lifting restrictions due to dropping case numbers and deaths, dealing with COVID-19 has been a roller coaster ride.
True Star got to speak with Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, to get some tips regarding staying safe and keeping those around you safe from this ever-changing virus.
“The version of the virus we were fighting in 2020 is pretty different than the version of the virus we’re fighting in 2023,” said Dr. Arwady. “Because the virus keeps changing, it’s important that we also stay up to date with the tools we have to fight it.”
COVID-19 isn’t gone for good, but Chicago has significantly lowered its deaths per day as a result of the virus.
“We still have Chicagoans dying from COVID, but it is less than one Chicagoan per day, on average whereas it was more than 50 Chicagoans [dying] per day at the height of this,” Arwady said.
Beyond Omicron, there have been no new variants of interest that we should’ve been on high alert for in the past year, according to Arwady. Despite this, there have been many subvariants of Omicron such as BA.1 and BA.2 that have been more easily spread than prior variants, resulting in increasing case numbers.
Regardless of the progress we’ve made when it comes to learning more about the virus and lowering case numbers, it still remains clear that the pandemic is far from over and COVID-19 is likely here to stay for a while.
“COVID-19 is still in the top three things that are killing Americans. Heart disease, cancer, COVID-19,” said Arwady. “Here in Chicago, at least last year, [COVID-19] was even beating out cancer.”
Arwady also mentioned that there have been approximately 8,000 COVID-19 related deaths in Chicago.
Being vaccinated has proved to be one of the most vital ways to fight against the COVID-19 virus. Arwady strongly advises that everyone eligible for the vaccine go get it. She also advises that those who are vaccinated to get their updated booster shot as well.
“If you haven’t had a vaccine since Labor Day of [last] year, you’re not up to date. You should get another COVID vaccine and you should get a flu vaccine,” Arwady said.
Arwady especially wants Chicago youth to understand the importance of them being vaccinated and the impact that it will have on COVID-19 case numbers and deaths.
“Younger Chicagoans are less likely to be vaccinated overall. Teenages and Chicagoans in their 20s tend to be the most social, but it also means that there can be some more potential for spreading COVID,” said Arwady.
It’s important to understand that vaccine is an essential tool to fighting against the virus. Those without vaccines are far more likely to be hospitalized or even die from contracting the virus.
“If you compare people in Chicago who haven’t gotten a COVID vaccine to people who are up to date with their vaccines, the people who never got a vaccine are three times as likely to end up in the hospital,” Arwady said. “People who have not had a vaccine are about six times as likely to die if they have COVID than people who are up to date with their vaccine.”
If there’s anything to be taken from this, please get vaccinated. Not only will you be protecting yourself, but also those who you come into contact with who are in contact with many others and so on.
By visiting chicago.gov/athome or calling 312-746-4835 you can receive more information about being vaccinated at home.
To watch the full interview with Dr. Arwady, simply click below.
By Cierra Lemott, Junior, Columbia College Chicago
Instagram: @cece.kodak / @kodakscamera