North suburbs pass Illinois’ COVID-19 test ‘failsafe’ level, Chicago close as Cook County faces new restrictions

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CHICAGO — State health officials announced additional coronavirus restrictions are coming to suburban Cook County later this week, as COVID-19 positivity rates in Chicago’s north suburbs passed the state’s failsafe level and rates in the city itself are approaching the limit Monday.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, suburban Cook County reported seven days with an increase in hospitalizations with coronavirus-like symptoms between October 13-23, as well as seven days with an increase in the 7-day average of COVID-19 test positivity rates.

The combined rise in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and test positivity rates meets one of the criteria established in the Restore Illinois plan for additional restrictions to be put in place. Starting Wednesday, indoor service at bars and restaurants will no longer be allowed in suburban Cook County and limits on group sizes will be lowered to 25 people or less.

WATCH ABOVE: Governor Pritzker and health officials give a daily COVID-19 briefing Monday

Reiterating the same guidance state health officials have been giving residents for months — wear a mask, avoid large gatherings and wash hands — IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the number of hospitalizations, patients in intensive care and deaths related to COVID-19 continues to rise.

“If what we’re seeing today does not turn around, we are on a path to see more than 11,000 Covid deaths in Illinois this year,” Ezike said.

Positivity rates in the North Suburban Region including Lake and McHenry counties also surpassed the state’s 8 percent “failsafe” level with a 7-day average of 8.1% as of October 23. If the rate remains above 8 percent for three consecutive days, added restrictions will be put in place there as well.

Chris Manolis and his family own several Blueberry Hill cafes across the Chicagoland area. While they’re popular for dining in, soon it’ll be back to carryout only. 

“I can see the governor’s point, you gotta save lives, but there’s always another side too; if you can’t work you can’t provide for your family,” Manolis said. “In the end there will probably be a lot of small businesses that will not make it.”

He’s already had to let several staff members go this year, and says as a business owner you feel you’re letting people down.

“It’s hard; the holidays are coming, I just told my hostess the news and she literally almost started crying,” he said.

Now he said he’s just hoping Illinois can get things back on track and heading in the right direction, rather than the wrong one.

Chicago is approaching the failsafe level after seeing a steady rise in its 7-day positivity rate over the past two weeks, reaching 7.7% as of Friday, state data shows. The city also reported increases in hospitalizations with coronavirus-like symptoms over six of the past 10 days, approaching the state’s other metric for new restrictions.

State officials also announced Monday that added restrictions will return to the Metro East region outside St. Louis, which was previously under additional mitigation measures but saw them lifted, due to positivity rates remaining above the 8 percent limit for three consecutive days.

Governor JB Pritzker said Monday it’s “not surprising” these regions have seen rising infection rates, pointing to neighboring states which are reporting positivity rates in the double digits.

“We’re seeing a national surge of coronavirus and Illinois is not immune,” Prtizker said. “There seems to be a Covid storm on the rise and we have to get prepared.”

The remaining regions of the state all reported 7-day positivity rates of more than 7% Monday, including the North-Central Region (7.2%) East-Central Region (7.8%) West-Central Region (7.8%).

Statewide, the IDPH reported 4,729 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 additional coronavirus-related deaths Monday, while the test positivity rate from October 19-25 came in at 6.3%.

Positivity rates in Illinois continue to rise even as health officials say it is now averaging more than three times the state average in the U.S., reporting over 57,000 new tests Monday and a 7-day average of more than 70,000.

While hospitalizations are also slowly rising across the state, hospital resources remain well within state limits, as state health officials report 2,638 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 including 589 in intensive care and 238 on ventilators Sunday night.

While other regions have come under added restrictions after passing the sate’s “failsafe” level, officials said suburban Cook County will be the first to see them imposed after passing the limit based on days with a sustained increase in both positivity rates and hospitalizations.

Suburban Cook County and the Metro East Region will be under the state’s “Tier 1” mitigation measures starting Wednesday, including:

  • Limits on gatherings to 25 people or 25 percent of room capacity, whichever is less
  • No indoor service at bars and restaurants, with outdoor service ending at 11 p.m.
  • Reservations are required at bars and restaurants, and no shared tables allowed
  • No party buses allowed, and all gaming and casinos must also close at 11 p.m.

Offices, schools and gyms remain under separate guidance from health officials and are not included in the added restrictions announced Monday.

This first tier of restrictions would also be imposed in Chicago or the north suburbs if they surpass the state’s coronavirus limits in the coming days.

Additional restrictions remain in effect in other regions including northwestern Illinois, southern Illinois and suburban Will, Kankakee, DuPage and Kane counties.

According to Cook County health officials, recent studies have shown people gathering indoors to drink and eat at parties, bars, or restaurants are more likely to ignore guidelines on social distancing and wearing masks, increasing their risk of exposure.

“Our mitigation measures are responsive to the data, which is showing higher rates among people under age 30,” Cook County Department of Public Health’s Dr. Rachel Rubin said in a statement. “While they tend not to get as sick from COVID-19, they can still become seriously ill and spread the infection to their grandparents, co-workers, family, and friends.”

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