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CHICAGO — Officials expressed new concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus in Illinois Wednesday, warning the state is trending upwards as new restrictions take effect in the Metro East region.

Governor JB Pritzker said Wednesday the state is imposing additional coronavirus mitigation measures in the region outside St. Louis, including shutting down indoor service at bars and restaurants, as the 7-day positivity rate remains above the state’s limit of 8 percent. As of August 30, the rate in the region came in at 9.6 percent.

“Let me be clear: these are not decisions I make lightly, nor would I impose these restrictions if there wasn’t evidence of increasing spread of the virus in these areas; I want our businesses to be open, and I want our hospitality scenes to thrive,” Pritzker said.

WATCH ABOVE: Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and health officials speak about the spread of COVID-19 in the state and the latest mitigation measures

Illinois health officials reported 2,128 new COVID-19 cases and 27 additional coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed over the past day Wednesday.

This was not at all the update that businesses across Illinois wanted to hear. The governor says getting the economy going again while fighting the virus is like having one hand tied behind your back.    

“It’s time to mask up, Illinois. If we all do our parts, masks, distance, hand washing, getting tested, we can get through this and we can come out stronger on the other side,” Pritzker said.

Additional restrictions were first put in place in the Metro East region 14 days ago after the 7-day positivity rate there was above the 8 percent limit for three consecutive days. The new measures are being added Wednesday after the positivity rate since then failed to drop below a 6.5 percent average threshold set by the state.

The stricter measures now in place in the Metro East region are the same as those initially imposed in the South Suburban region which includes Will and Kankakee counties on August 26. The positivity rate there also remains above the 8 percent limit, coming in at 8.8 percent as of Sunday.

The statewide positivity rate from August 26 – September 1 went up slightly to 4.5 percent, within half a percent of where it has been since the beginning of August.

Visiting Illinois on Tuesday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx raised concerns about COVID-19 positive tests soaring from 5 percent to 10 percent in several rural Illinois counties.

Birx and other health experts warn about the potential for the spread of coronavirus among family members over the Labor Day weekend in particular.

“Our small intimate family gathering must look different than they did before but can be every bit as rewarding as important and as enjoyable,” said IDPH Assistant Director Dr. Amaal Tokars.

Pritzker echoed those concerns on Wednesday, saying “much of the spread” in Illinois often happens in private settings, and advised people to wear masks and observe social distancing even over the holiday weekend.

“People often let down their guard thinking, ‘well I’m at home or I’m at someone’s home that I know,’ but the reality is that you don’t know where everybody who’s there has been,” Pritzker said. “The reality is that there can be and has been a significant amount of community spread as a result of those types of gatherings.”

Hospital resources and coronavirus hospitalizations remain within state guidelines, with 1,596 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, including 347 in intensive care and 142 on ventilators.

State health officials said an unusually low number of tests reported Tuesday (22,961) and Wednesday (32,751) is due to a technical issue, not due to a drop in testing statewide.

Pritzker said over the last two weeks, nine of 11 regions in Illinois saw their positivity rates “creep” upward, with four seeing a more than one percent increase in their positivity rate. Two regions have seen their rates drop as well.

The governor also announced a virtual memorial service for people who have died as a result of COVID-19 will be held Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

A new report released Tuesday found antibodies that people make to fight the new coronavirus last for at least four months after diagnosis and do not fade quickly as some earlier reports suggested.

The result of tests on more than 30,000 people in Iceland, the report is the most extensive work yet on the immune system’s response to the virus over time, and is good news for efforts to develop vaccines.

Additional research released Tuesday found COVID-19 and its symptoms can also last much longer than the 10-day benchmark established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once cleared, researchers found many patients battle symptoms that can last months. Most commonly, those symptoms range from aches and pains to loss of smell to a cloudy head.