CHICAGO — Suburban Lake and McHenry counties will join most of Illinois under added coronavirus restrictions after the region passed the state’s COVID-19 test “failsafe” level, health officials said Wednesday, as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases continues across the state.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 7-day COVID-19 test positivity rate in the North Suburban Region remained above the state’s 8% “failsafe” level for a third day after it reached 8.4% on October 25, qualifying for added restrictions under the Restore Illinois plan.
“The rate of new infections is surging in our region – a steeper curve than we saw in the spring,” Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said in a statement.
Starting Saturday, the region will face the state’s “Tier 1” coronavirus mitigation measures including a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants, and decreased limits on group sizes to 25 people or 25 percent of room capacity.
“With Region 9 being added to the list of regions in mitigation, we are getting close to the entire state implementing mitigation measures,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “We continue to move backwards, losing all the ground we had gained over the summer.
Illinois continues to see a steady increase in COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates which began in early October, as the IDPH reports 6,110 new cases and 51 additional coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday.
The number of new cases reported Wednesday is slightly below the single-day record of 6,161 set Saturday, while data compiled by WGN shows the 7-day average is now above 4,800 and more than double the average seen at the start of the month.
State health officials also reported more than 70,000 new COVID-19 tests have been performed over the past day, which is near the current 7-day average of around 72,000. As testing in the state continues to expand, the weekly average has risen by about 20,000 since early October.
The positivity rate from October 21-27 came in at 6.7%, rising to levels last reported in early June, although the average number of tests being performed has more than tripled since then.
State health officials also announced guidelines for winter sports across Illinois Tuesday. While those deemed “low risk” will be allowed to hold games, competitive play will not be allowed for “high risk” sports which includes basketball, hockey and wrestling.
A total of eight Illinois regions are facing additional coronavirus mitigation measures, while only one of the remaining three regions reported a 7-day COVID-19 test positivity rate below the state’s “failsafe” level as of Wednesday.
The state’s “Tier 1” restrictions, which are the same as those announced for the north suburbs, went into effect in suburban Cook County Wednesday. The measures are seeing pushback from local officials who say they are too harsh on local businesses or argue whether public spaces are the source of the spread of coronavirus.
The Illinois Restaurant Association also penned a letter to Pritzker asking for the rules to be changed, arguing restaurants will not survive another complete shutdown of indoor service.
Chicago also met one of the metrics to qualify for added restrictions on Tuesday, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is working with state health officials to find more “surgical” ways to address rising coronavirus cases in the city.
“If the governor’s order goes into effect, it’s really shutting down a significant portion of our economy when those same businesses are really holding on by a thread,” Lightfoot said.
Health officials said restrictions are being put in place in the north suburbs as the region sees an increase in both the percent of COVID-19 tests which are coming back positive and the number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus-like symptoms. The region reported a 7-day average of 16 coronavirus hospitalizations on October 25.
Hospital resources in the region remain well within state limits, with a 3-day average of 38% of medical and surgical beds available and 50% of intensive care unit beds available as of October 26. The state’s minimum threshold is 20% in both cases.
A total of 2,861 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the IDPH, including 600 in intensive care and 243 on ventilators. Hospital resources statewide also remain well within state guidelines as of Wednesday.