Two states have been added back to Chicago’s emergency travel advisory this week, breaking a several-week streak of no travel warnings to the city as the delta variant surges in certain pockets of the U.S.
Missouri and Arkansas will be the only two states where unvaccinated travelers returning to Chicago will be asked to abide by quarantine or COVID-19 test requirements, according to a Tuesday news release from the Chicago Department of Public Health. The list is updated every two weeks and travel guidance on new states goes into effect on Friday.
The city downgraded its mandatory travel order to an “advisory” status two weeks ago, but officials said they can reinstate the requirements if cases in other states rise above a certain total per residents. Though Missouri and Arkansas did surpass that threshold, a CDPH spokesman said Tuesday that the advisory will remain non-mandatory.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and this only goes to show that the virus is still very much a threat and that we must all remain vigilant against it,” the city’s public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, said in a statement. “That means getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public settings if you are not fully vaccinated.”
Since the start of June, no states had been on the city’s COVID-19 travel restriction list as the pandemic appeared to ebb in the U.S. thanks to vaccinations. But as the more contagious delta variant began spreading and states hit a wall with vaccine outreach, positive tests began creeping up once again.
In addition to the new advisories, several other states — Nevada, Louisiana, Utah, Wyoming and Florida, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands — could also be added to the advisory list if their caseloads continue rising, CDPH said.
Missouri and Arkansas were added this week because they met the threshold of at least 15 daily cases per 100,000 residents. Once a state breaches that ceiling, travelers returning from there to Chicago are advised to be fully vaccinated, quarantine for 10 days or test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before arrival.
In adding Missouri to the list, CDPH in its Tuesday statement noted rising case rates in central and southern Illinois. Almost three-quarters of new cases in Missouri are made up of the delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That variant has become the dominant strain in the country.
The city’s travel orders have not been strictly enforced, and Arwady said earlier this year that no one was fined for violating the restrictions.