CHICAGO — Illinois health officials announced additional restrictions including a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants and a limit on group sizes to 25 people or less are coming to Chicago starting Friday after a rise in COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations passed state limits.
According to data reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health Tuesday, Chicago posted increases in its 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate and hospital admissions for “COVID-19 like” illness over at least seven of the past 10 days, meeting the state’s criteria for additional mitigation measures to be put in place.
In a statement, Governor JB Pritzker said Chicago is now averaging more than twice as many COVID-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago while the positivity rate has almost doubled since the beginning of October.
“We can’t ignore what is happening around us – because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring,” Pritzker said.
Speaking with PBS NewsHour after the announcement Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was working with Pritzker and 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.
Lightfoot said contact tracing in Chicago has found that 2/3 of people who tested positive for COVID-19 said they got it from someone they know at a home or non-public setting.
“The truth is that where we’re seeing the greatest challenges is in people’s homes, in social settings that are not public,” Lightfoot said. “I’m not sure that we’re reaching the right people with the restrictions that are going to be imposed by the state.”
The IDPH reports the 7-day positivity rate in Chicago reached 7.8% on October 24 after rising for eight of the previous 10 days, while the 7-day average of coronavirus hospitalizations rose for a seventh day over that period to 43 as of Saturday.
Starting Friday Chicago will be under “Tier 1” of coronavirus mitigation measures outlined in the Restore Illinois plan, which includes limits on group sizes to 25 people or 25% of room capacity (whichever is less), and indoor service at bars or restaurants will no longer be allowed. Outdoor bar and restaurant service must end at 11 p.m.
State health officials announced added restrictions for suburban Cook County after it hit the same number of days with increases in COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations Monday.
“What we are starting to see now, first with suburban Cook County, and now with Chicago, is that mitigation measures are needed because COVID-19 hospital admissions are going up alongside increases in test positivity,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Based on current trends, we soon could face reduced hospital bed availability and overwhelming our health care systems.”
While the City of Chicago already banned indoor service at bars which don’t serve food last Thursday, the state’s latest restrictions ban all indoor service.
The IDPH said the “Tier 1” restrictions will remain in effect in Chicago until:
- The positivity rate measured over a three-day period averages 6.5% or less
- Hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness decline over a three-day period
- Availability of ICU and other hospital beds averages 20% or more over a week
Chicago met at least one of these criteria as of Tuesday with 35% of intensive care beds available at area hospitals.
WATCH ABOVE: Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady gives an update on COVID-19 in the city Tuesday
Statewide, the IDPH reported 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 46 additional coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday, while the positivity rate from October 20-26 came in at 6.4%.
Deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. are on the rise again, just as health experts had feared, and cases are climbing in practically every state. The virus is blamed for more than 8.6 million confirmed infections and over 225,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest such totals in the world.
With positivity rates rising statewide, every region in Illinois is either under added restrictions, over the state’s “failsafe” level of 8% or approaching the limit as of Tuesday.
The North Suburban region including Lake and McHenry counties remained above the state’s 7-day positivity rate “failsafe” level of 8% for a second consecutive day after coming in at 8.4% Tuesday. If the rate remains above 8% for a third day, the region will likely see additional mitigation measures.
Additional restrictions remain in effect in northwestern Illinois, southern Illinois and suburban Will, Kankakee, DuPage and Kane counties, and are coming to suburban Cook County and the Metro East region outside St. Louis starting Wednesday.
The 7-day positivity rate in the West-Central Region reached the state’s “failsafe” level of 8% Tuesday, and will also qualify for added restrictions if the rate remains above 8% for three consecutive days.
Positivity rates in the remaining regions of Illinois are all above 7% as of Tuesday including the East-Central Region (7.9%) and North-Central Region (7.5%).
While COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise statewide they remain well within state limits, with 2,758 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday night, including 595 in intensive care and 241 on ventilators. State health officials estimate 97% of confirmed cases have recovered.