Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady On Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions, Next Steps With Pandemic

At long last, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois will fully reopen from coronavirus restrictions on Friday. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady joined CBS 2’s Brad Edwards and Irika Sargent live Thursday on “Hour 18.”

Video Transcript

IRIKA SARGENT: But of course, the big news is, they will be fully reopening. Joining us now live, Dr. Allison Arwady, from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

BRAD EDWARDS: Yeah, welcome to the show again, Doc. It's been 17 months since the first COVID case was found here in Illinois, 15 months since the state virtually shut down. And you've been right there day in, day out, 24/7, helping us navigate through this. How are you emotionally and as a doctor? So that's a big IQ, EQ balance. How are you feeling as we're on the precipice here this moment?

ALLISON ARWADY: I'm really excited and I'm feeling so thankful to Chicago. Because it's really all of the work that everybody has done here that has gotten us to a point where COVID is in good enough control for us to be able to be confident about moving ahead with reopening. And as a person, I'm excited to be able to do a lot of the things I love about Chicago in the summer.

IRIKA SARGENT: Well, Doctor, about 43% of Chicago's population is fully vaccinated. We're happy about that. But we still have quite a ways to go in terms of getting the vaccine in more arms. What are you hearing, is still holding people back?

ALLISON ARWADY: So we hear some people say I already had COVID. I don't need a vaccine, which isn't true. They should get one. We hear some people say-- I made it this far, and I didn't get COVID. And that's a sign why I wouldn't need it. And we do need everybody to really step up, get that vaccine for themselves, for their community. We still hear some people who don't know that the vaccine is completely free. Or they think that there are still long lines. Vaccine is widely available 312-746-4835. We will set you up with a vaccine. If you're over 65, we'll even bring it to your home.

BRAD EDWARDS: This one's a pickle for parents, children under 12 still not able to get vaccinated. We've been hearing from parents who are cautious about removing their mask in public even if they, the parents, are vaccinated. So can they, the parents, feel safe without masking in public? One part of the question. And then should the little kids mask?

ALLISON ARWADY: So we definitely continue to recommend that anyone who is not vaccinated be masking in public spaces where you don't know that everyone's been vaccinated. So the children should continue to mask when they are out, especially if they're going to be in indoor locations. I think related to parents, we're probably going to see a mix of decisions there. Parents do want to model that mask wearing sometimes for their children.

But broadly, if they are fully vaccinated and their child does not have a significant underlying condition or immunocompromised, they are very well protected for the vaccine. So I think we'll probably see a lot of parents not wearing that mask unless their kids are with them, in which case, I think it can be good modeling behavior.

IRIKA SARGENT: Dr. Arwady, there's been this ongoing conversation about boosters needing to have another shot. With the fall approaching, once we get through our summer, do you see a resurgence in the fall as vaccines begin to wear off?

ALLISON ARWADY: So I think it's possible we could see a resurgence in the fall. But I think if we do, it's more likely related to the fact that this may be seasonal. We think of our flu, and our cold season in the fall and in the winter, and we may see a resurgence of COVID. The good news is that the vaccines are actually excellent at this point in terms of durability. Meaning, we've not seen signs of the vaccine wearing off.

If anything, we could see a new variant emerge, especially if we don't get a lot of the population vaccinated. And in that setting, we could possibly need a different form of the vaccine to protect against that variant. But I'm feeling confident right now that the vaccines that we have, protect broadly against all the known variants and getting everybody done now should take us really through into the fall and hopefully, even into the winter.

BRAD EDWARDS: Doctor, so you're salaried, I would imagine. I mean, I would hate to see your timesheet from the past year how much overtime you could have potentially accrued. You have been 24/7, now, what? 435, 452, I don't know how many days. Do you have a vacation planned? Are you going to get out of Illinois?

ALLISON ARWADY: I am definitely starting to plan a vacation, a little bit of time off. It's not just me, the whole health department has been working just around the clock. We're happy to do it, but we're certainly looking ahead to phase 5 and being able to take at least a little bit of time off while we keep working on vaccines.

IRIKA SARGENT: All right. Well, Dr. Arwady, thank you so much for answering our questions, particularly that last one. I know Brad have been wondering about that. And we hope to have you on again soon.

ALLISON ARWADY: Absolutely. Thanks so much.

IRIKA SARGENT: Thank you.