Apr 1, 2022 - COVID

Tracking COVID-19 in Chicago proves difficult

Source: Chicago Department of Public Health. Graphic: Axios Visuals

👋 Hey, it's Monica. You know, the one with COVID.

I get that you're probably tired of hearing about my maladies. But you know who I haven't been able to tell about my disease? Chicago health authorities.

  • That's because I tested positive (twice) using home tests and am not sure how to report it.

Why it matters: Health officials say they're making policy decisions based on metrics, including case rates. But with 10 freshly closed state testing centers and thousands of citizens using home kits, we wonder how they're maintaining accurate counts.

  • CDPH officials could not tell me how to report a positive home test and instead referred me to a site that says Chicagoans don't need to report home tests.
  • So … what am I supposed to do with the data that I have COVID? Keep it to myself, I guess.

What they're saying: "Although many [cases] are not reported to public health, we remain confident in our monitoring systems to detect increases in community transmission of COVID-19," CDPH's Andrew Buchanan tells Axios.

By the numbers: Based on current data, my ZIP code in Lakeview (60657) leads the city in case positivity at 5.5%.

  • In fact, all of the highest-positivity ZIP codes represent downtown or North Side neighborhoods.

Yes, but: Positivity percentages only represent the cases health officials know about, leaving out scores of home test results.

What they're saying: Illinois Public Health spokesperson Mike Claffey says "Neither IDPH nor CDC are counting cases in which someone tests themselves at home, and does not follow up with a provider."

  • "The closure of the community-based testing sites will not have a significant impact, since as we announced last week, they were conducting less than 1% of tests statewide," he added.
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