• Tracking the variant

Live updates: Omicron Variant in Chicago

Chicago’s vaccine mandate may be encouraging the city’s young people to get their shots

Dr. Allison Arwady
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks to reporters on March 24, 2020, in Chicago. Tyler LaRiviere / Chicago Sun-Times via AP, Pool

Chicago has seen an uptick in younger people getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and one reason could be the city’s mandate for entering restaurants or entertainment venues.

Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday the city is using several measures, including surges, to track whether the vaccine mandate is affecting the vaccination rate.

She said recently vaccinated people ages 12 to 39 have cited the mandate as a reason they decided to get at least their first dose.

“We’ve been doing some surveys of folks who are getting vaccinated now, and it’s definitely a major reason that especially younger people are giving for being vaccinated,” Arwady said.

On Tuesday she also addressed the Omicron subvariant that has been reported in other countries and was detected for the first time in Illinois. The case was discovered on Jan. 18, according to researchers at Northwestern Medicine.

“I wouldn’t consider it a new variant at this point,” Arwady said. “We’re certainly watching it and monitoring it. But I would not at this point say very clearly that this is going to be a huge, you know, kind of a huge wave.”

The subvariant has been called “stealth Omicron” but Arwady said that’s not a scientific term. She said there are three subvariants of Omicron, but so far there’s no indication the latest subvariant will be more severe than the original.

Meanwhile, new cases of COVID-19 are decreasing in Chicago. As of Tuesday, the daily case average is 1,037 – down 48% from the prior week. Daily averages for hospitalizations, deaths and positivity rates are also lower compared with a week ago.