Limited indoor dining to return in North-Central Illinois as state reports 4,162 new COVID-19 cases, 29 deaths

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CHICAGO — Another Illinois region met the state’s metrics for lifting a ban on indoor dining at restaurants and lessening other COVID-19 restrictions Sunday, as many regions continue to see declining test positivity rates and hospitalizations.

The number of cases and deaths reported by the state continue to decline on average, as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 4,162 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases Sunday as well as 29 additional deaths.

Illinois is now averaging about 5,700 daily Covid cases and 91 deaths when measured over a seven-day period, while the state’s 7-day case positivity rate declined for the ninth consecutive day to 6.1%.

Governor JB Pritzker and state health officials began allowing regions to move from “Tier 3” coronavirus mitigation measures to less-restrictive tiers last Friday, so long as they meet certain metrics.

As of Sunday, the North-Central Region which includes Kendall, Grundy and Livingston counties will join the Southern Region in “Tier 1” after the region saw a COVID-19 test positivity rate below 8% for three days in a row. Southern Illinois could see a full return to “Phase 4” mitigations tomorrow if test positivity rates continue to fall.

Under the latest guidelines released by the State of Illinois, a region must move to “Tier 2” in order to reopen cultural institutions like museums and theaters, as well as gaming and casinos. Once their region reaches “Tier 1,” restaurants and bars which serve food can reopen for indoor dining with capacity limited to 25%. Each less-restrictive tier also includes greater allowances for capacity and group sizes.

Currently, the region which includes northwest Illinois is under “Tier 2” mitigations, while the rest of the state remains under “Tier 3.”

While many regions in the Chicago area and across the state meet the test positivity rate limits needed to move to another tier, the availability of hospital beds or number of days with a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations remain just short of state limits.

For instance, the West-Central Region which includes Springfield has seen plummeting test positivity rates that are near the level for returning to “Phase 4,” but it remains in “Tier 3” due to hospital bed availability. As of Sunday, it’s one short of the three consecutive days needed with medical/surgical bed availability above 20%.

However, the IDPH announced on Saturday they will begin measuring hospital bed availability over a seven-day period instead of a three-day period in order to account for day-to-day fluctuations. Since so many regions are on the cusp of state limits, this could make it easier for them to stay above the 20% minimum.

Hospitalizations have continued to trend down in recent weeks, with IDPH reporting 3,408 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday night including 720 in intensive care and 387 on ventilators.

Vaccination efforts continue in the state, although the IDPH reported a decline in the 7-day average of the number of new vaccines administered to 23,546 statewide. To date, Illinois has received 1,049,675 doses of COVID-19 vaccines while 487,040 have been administered.

Testing in the state continues to climb towards levels last seen before the Thanksgiving holiday, with IDPH reporting more than 93,000 daily tests over the past seven days.

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