COOK COUNTY, Ill. – Cook County Public Health officials are warning residents that additional coronavirus restrictions could return in a matter of days as case numbers and other key measures continue to rise.
The threat could mean restaurants in the city and the suburbs would once again be dealing with reduced capacities and limitations. A decision about new restrictions is expected in the coming days.
Business owner Pat Fowler told WGN it was business as usual Sunday for his popular Evanston-area restaurant, Firehouse Grill. A 60-degree sunny day brought a steady stream of customers to the outdoor patio.
“We’ve been totally full outside all day, so that’s been great and people are excited to be out,” he said. “It’s super nice weather and people are enjoying themselves.”
But just as Illinois restaurants and businesses are bouncing back from months of restrictions amid a growing number of people getting vaccinated, health officials warn of a possible ‘third wave’ of COVID-19.
The possibility is alarming for Fowler.
“It’s always disappointing to hear more restrictions might be placed on us, but for us, the health and safety of our employees and our customers is the most important thing to me,” Fowler said. “So, if that’s what we need to do to put an end to this pandemic, we’re more than happy to do it.”
Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Cook County Department of Public Health insists a decision on restrictions is still “a matter of days” away but says she is monitoring what she calls a “concerning increase in COVID-19 cases.”
Public health statistics show Suburban Cook County recorded nearly 500 new cases a day over the last week. Nearly 80 percent of Suburban Cook County residents 65 or older have been vaccinated with at least one shot. Dr. Rubin attributes to spike to younger people, mainly in their 20s and 30s.
The latest figures show a county-wide positivity rate hovering around 5%. The number that triggered shutdowns and restrictions last fall was 8%.
In Illinois, just under 19% of the total population has been vaccinated.
“We may very well have to clamp down within a matter of days,” Dr. Rubin said. “I’m not promising that one way or another. We need to evaluate what kind of activities and movements we think are really pushing this surge.”