COVID-19 Rates Rising Statewide, Restrictions Return to Suburban Cook County, Metro East

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Starting Wednesday, indoor service at bars and restaurants will be suspended in suburban Cook County and the Metro East region of the state due to rising coronavirus positivity rates.

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In suburban Cook County, the increased restrictions were triggered following increases in test positivity rates for eight consecutive days and hospital admissions for seven days. According to a Monday morning press release from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, this makes suburban Cook County, also known as region 10, “the first region in the state to meet the metrics for additional mitigations in this way and surpass warning levels in two categories simultaneously.”

Chicago is its own region — region 11 — per the state’s mitigation plan.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the more than 4,000 cases reported statewide Sunday are worrisome.

“The numbers are very concerning and a wake-up call as we head into colder weather, flu season and the holidays,” Preckwinkle said in a statement Monday. “We are all experiencing COVID fatigue, but we must remain vigilant and continue practicing the commonsense strategies that have been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

Cook County officials said COVID-19 infection rates are higher among people under age 30.

“Everyone is at risk, including young people. 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,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Cook County Department of Public Health co-lead and senior medical officer, in a statement.

The Metro East region, also known as region 4, has had a seven-day rolling average test positivity rate of 8% or higher for three consecutive days, triggering the additional mitigations for the second time since mid-summer.

Bars and restaurants in those regions must close by 11 p.m. and all patrons must be seated at outdoor tables, according to the state’s mitigation plan. Additionally, gatherings must be limited to 25 people or 25% of a room’s overall capacity.

“Starting Wednesday, six of our 11 regions will be operating under our resurgence mitigation framework,” Pritzker said during his Monday afternoon press briefing on the coronavirus.

Regions 1, 5, 7 and 8 are already operating under stricter regulations — though region 1, in northern Illinois, is operating under “tier 2” restrictions that limit gatherings to 10 people and patrons at bars and restaurants to six per table. Regions start in “tier 1” and advance to the second tier if they experience a sustained resurgence of COVID-19, according to the state’s mitigation plan.

On Monday, state health officials reported 4,729 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 virus-related deaths in the past 24 hours. A Cook County resident in his 30s was among the deaths reported Monday.

“Cases, positivity (and) hospitalizations are all rising across the state of Illinois and we’ve got to reverse the trend and slow the spread of this virus,” Pritzker said.

Statewide, there have been 378,925 cases and 9,522 deaths since the pandemic began.

“The people who get exposed to the virus tomorrow have not been determined, and that’s where every one of us comes in with our masks and our clean hands and our physical distancing,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We can prevent exposure to this deadly virus tomorrow.”

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate is 6.3%, according to IDPH data. Within the past 24 hours, labs have processed 57,264 specimens, with more than 7.3 million tests completed statewide.

In Chicago, the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate is 7.7%, according to Pritzker, who said region 9, which includes Lake and McHenry counties, recorded an 8.1% positivity rate.

“No matter where in Illinois you call home, as you go about your daily lives remember: this is not over. There seems to be a COVID storm on the rise,” Pritzker said. “We have to get prepared.”

As of Sunday night, 2,638 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and of those, 589 patients were in intensive care units and 238 were on ventilators, according to state health officials.

“Treatment for COVID-19 is limited. There is no cure, but we have prevention,” Ezike said.

With Halloween less than a week away, officials warned that home gatherings aren’t necessarily safer than going to a bar or a restaurant.

“People are exposed to the virus and are bringing it home to their families and friends. As tempting as it may be to celebrate Halloween with friends, even small gatherings pose significant risk – especially for loved ones who may be more vulnerable to serious illness,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, Cook County Department of Public Health co-lead and senior medical officer, in a statement.

Outbreaks that have been tied to private gatherings are happening throughout the state, according to officials.

“We’re heading into holiday season,” Pritzker said. “Unfortunately, this is a moment when people let their guard down. … This is a time we all need to be very careful. That doesn’t mean you can’t get together.”

If you plan to have people over who do not live in your home, “please, please wear your mask, keep some distance – 6 feet of distance,” Pritzker said. “You can do that. This is an odd year, I understand it will be a strange circumstance.”

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

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