You might want to cancel that Sunday drive to Wisconsin to see the fall colors.
For the second time in less than two months, Wisconsin is going back on Chicago’s 14-day quarantine list.
Wisconsin’s return to Chicago’s travel advisory list comes one week after Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the state it had one week to get its act together.
It didn’t happen. That means Wisconsin is rejoining a list that is triggered by averaging more than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period. Also joining the list are Montana, Idaho, Minnesota and Puerto Rico.
“Unfortunately, Wisconsin is currently in very poor control when it comes to COVID,” Arwady told a City Hall news conference on Tuesday.
“Over the last 14 days, they’ve had an increase of more than 130 percent in their cases of COVID. And their positivity rate is up to an average now of approximately 15 percent. They’re averaging 31 … daily cases-per-100,000. Which puts it at more than twice the rate of what we require for quarantine. And in fact, it’s the state that is currently worst in the country after North and South Dakota in terms of cases-per-population that’s still on the way up.”
Meanwhile, Illinois officials on Tuesday announced 1,531 new cases of COVID-19 along with 30 additional deaths.
That brings the state’s totals to 277,266 cases and 8,486 deaths, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state’s positivity rate remained at 3.5%.
Despite an earlier threat to levy fines, the travel advisory is more educational than real. Compliance is voluntary. So far, warning letters are as far as City Hall has been willing to go.
Even so, adding Wisconsin to the list for a second time is likely to make Chicagoans think twice before grabbing a bratwurst at Mars Cheese Castle, traveling to Lake Geneva or vacationing in Door County.
Chicagoans returning from states on the travel advisory list are asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Exceptions are made for those who work in Wisconsin or commute to jobs there.
“I hope that, when people see this news about Wisconsin, they think twice about going to Wisconsin right now. This is about risk for someone who’s traveling and then, the risk that they bring it back to Chicago,” Arwady said.
“Our travel quarantine orders are primarily focused on education. They’ve been very successful in terms of encouraging people to change their travel patterns. Encouraging business travelers to delay travel unless it is absolutely essential.”
Wisconsin will be rejoining a list that as of 12:01 a.m. Friday will include 18 states. The list is updated every Tuesday and changes take effect the following Friday at 12:01 a.m.
The addition to Chicago’s travel advisory comes as no surprise to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
On Tuesday, Evers extended a statewide mask mandate until Nov. 21 and declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin, his third since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
A conservative court challenge against the Wisconsin mask mandate is now pending, mirroring the controversy that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s public safety edicts have faced in Illinois. Wisconsin’s mask mandate had been due to expire on Monday.
The surge of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin is being driven by students at the various campuses of the University of Wisconsin.
A month ago, Wisconsin ranked 26th in the nation in the number of new COVID-19 cases-per-capita. It is now third-highest.
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by more than 100 percent.
“We are facing a new and dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Wisconsin,” Evers said Tuesday.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in cases across our state, especially on campus. We need folks to start taking this seriously, and young people especially. Please stay home as much as you are able, skip heading to the bars, and wear a mask whenever you go out.”
Compared to Wisconsin, Chicago is in relatively good shape.
The city’s positivity rate is down to 4.6 percent. Deaths have dropped to an average of three-a-day. Although new cases remain “disproportionately” in Hispanic neighborhoods on the Northwest and Southwest Sides, there has even been improvement in those neighborhoods, Arwady said.
But, the Health Department’s contact tracers “continue to investigate clusters” around barbecues, family parties, retirement parties and other celebrations, the commissioner said.
“Where we see spread tends to be in the gatherings where people let their guard down,” Arwady said.
“It’s very natural—when you’re with family, when you’re with friends, when you’re with neighbors—to feel comfortable. Everybody wants to feel like COVID is somewhere else. But, I ask you please, particularly as we’re heading into colder weather and we may start to see more gatherings indoors, the risk does go up.”