Governor adds COVID-19 restrictions for southern Illinois, warns Chicago’s south and west suburbs could be next

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker said additional coronavirus mitigation measures will be put in place in southern Illinois after positivity rates there passed the state’s “failsafe” level Monday, while Chicago’s west and south suburbs could be next.

“Experts have predicted for months that the country could see a resurgence of the virus as temperatures get colder and more people spend more time inside,” Pritzker said. “Here in Illinois, it looks like a new wave could be upon us.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,113 new COVID-19 cases and 22 additional coronavirus-related deaths Monday, as a resurgence in cases is being seen not only in Illinois but also across the nation.

The statewide positivity rate from October 12-18 came in at 5.4 percent, remaining near levels last seen in early June while the state’s weekly testing average has more than tripled since then, data compiled by WGN shows.

WATCH ABOVE: Governor JB Pritzker addresses a rise in COVID-19 across Illinois, additional coronavirus mitigation measures Monday

State health officials said Friday that 34 Illinois counties meet at least one of the state’s coronavirus “warning” levels, based on criteria including the total number of cases, test positivity rates and number of new cases compared to their population.

“Every region of the state has started to move in the wrong direction: cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths are rising statewide,” Pritzker said. “Thursday we set a record high of cases identified in one day, and then we beat that record on Friday.”

Pritzker said the Southern Region established in the Restore Illinois plan reached the “failsafe metric” of a sustained 7-day coronavirus positivity rate above 8 percent for three consecutive days Monday, reporting a rate of 9.1 percent as of October 16.

New restrictions will be put in place in the region starting Thursday, including bans on indoor dining and bar service and reductions in limits on the size of gatherings to a maximum of 25 people.

Similar restrictions could be announced for the West Suburban and South Suburban regions outside Chicago “as early as tomorrow,” Pritzker said.

“All of this takes place in a national landscape of increasing positivity rates, and where the majority of our border states have been called out as national hotspots,” Pritzker said. “We can’t wall off Illinois from the surge, but we can take extra precautions and do better than others at following mitigations that slow the spread.”

Health officials say a wide range of factors is contributing to a rise in cases which is especially prevalent among people in their 20s, including gatherings in people’s homes, events like weddings and funerals, customers returning to restaurants and bars, and parties connected with universities and sporting events.

State guidelines say new COVID-19 restrictions like lowering capacity limits in bars and restaurants must be put in place if the 7-day positivity rate in a particular region remains above 8 percent for three consecutive days.

While it was stable for weeks, the 7-day positivity rate in the West Suburban Region including DuPage and Kane counties began rising steadily from 4.9 percent on October 5 until it reached 8.4 percent on October 15, surpassing the 8 percent limit.

The rate remains above the limit for a second consecutive day as of October 16, according to the latest data made available Monday, coming in at 8.5 percent.

Some DuPage County schools are following recommendations made by health officials Monday and switching back to 100 percent remote learning, citing an increased risk of outbreaks inside the schools.

While the positivity rate was similarly stable in the South Suburban region which includes Kankakee and Will counties, it rose steadily from 5.9 percent on October 9 to surpass the 8 percent limit on October 15. It also remains above the limit for a second consecutive day with an 8.3 percent rate reported Monday.

While the 7-day positivity rates in both regions rose over the past week, the West Suburban region saw an increase in its weekly testing average, while testing remained relatively flat in the South Suburban region.

Both the South Suburban and West Suburban regions have seen a slight increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past week, from eight to 16 and 17 to 20 cases respectively, although hospital resources in both regions remain within the state guidelines.

While hospitalizations have risen to 2,096 patients with COVID-19 as of Sunday, they remain within state guidelines, including including 485 in intensive care and 179 on ventilators.

Additional restrictions also remain in effect across northwest Illinois, as the 7-day positivity rate in that region remains at 11.1 percent as of data reported Monday. Positivity rates in the region have continued to rise after reaching the state’s 8 percent limit on September 25.

As the state sees a surge in the spread of COVID-19, Pritzker said health officials and healthcare workers know “a good deal more” about how to handle the disease. He said the state also built up a store of resources to address a wave of cases this fall or winter, and reiterated the health advise he and health officials have been giving for months. 

“If you’re getting tired and you’re letting your guard down, now is the time to pick in back up again. Things are getting worse. Now is the time to wear a mask wherever you go, and take extra care to stay six feet away from each other,” Pritzker said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned residents Monday that restrictions may return if coronavirus numbers in the city continue to rise. Over the past two weeks, cases have risen by more than 50 percent to over 500 per day, city health officials said. This is the most cases per day seen in Chicago since late May.

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