State issues warning to 4 suburban counties after 1,384 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday

The state reported 1,384 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, the highest tally since June 2, and 22 more people died from the disease as the state also issued health alerts to four counties in the suburbs.

Suburban Cook, Kendall, Lake and Will counties each received a warning from the Illinois Department of Public Health because the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed the targeted level of fewer than 50 per 100,000 people.

Cook recorded 54 cases per 100,000, Kendall 52, Lake 60, and Will 51, from July 5 through July 11. The warnings are intended to inform the public and help people make decisions to protect themselves, the agency says.

Cook County, following the lead of Chicago, on Friday directed travelers entering or returning to suburban Cook County from states with high COVID-19 counts to quarantine for 14 days. County public health officials exempted essential workers and those traveling for medical care or parental custody.

The "emergency travel guidance" comes with no enforcement mechanisms but with a warning that surging cases could lead to "closing places we've only just reopened."

The list of states, which will be updated every Tuesday, include neighboring Iowa as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

An infectious disease specialist flagged trends in suburban COVID-19 patients returning from virus hot spots like Florida, Georgia and Texas, and warned Illinoisans to avoid those locations.

A number of COVID-19 hospitalizations are "being driven by travel, and if that occurs it can have a downstream effect and lead to community spread" in Illinois, said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, Edward Hospital medical director of infection control and prevention.

The IDPH reported a seven-day positivity test rate Friday of 3%, a slight dip from Thursday's 3.1% result.

The total case count statewide now stands at 159,334 with 7,272 deaths.

This week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker redrew boundaries for monitoring COVID-19 conditions, expanding from four to 11 regions that separates the suburbs from Chicago and divides them into suburban Cook, DuPage and Kane, Lake and McHenry, and Kendall and Will counties.

If health metrics raise alarms, the state can restrict activities by region to reduce the spread of the virus.

Triggers for interventions include a sustained increase in the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests based on a seven-day rolling average (for seven out of 10 days) plus a seven-day hike in hospital admissions for related symptoms or a reduction in ICU and hospital bed capacity of 20% or higher.

Another cause would be three consecutive days with 8% or higher rates of positive results on COVID-19 tests.

The state's COVID-19 testing average has hovered around 3% since July 10; Friday's daily rate is about 3.2%.

Weekly county data shows test rates as follows: Cook at 4.3%, DuPage at 3.8%, Kane at 4.2%, Kendall at 4.4%, Lake at 3.4%, McHenry at 5.2%, and Will at 4.3%.

All but Kendall are seeing some increases in hospitalizations but not by enough to cause an alert status, and all seven report a bed capacity of 37.9%.

At an event Friday, Pritzker was asked why he preemptively filed a lawsuit Thursday to ensure schoolchildren wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen.

"We've got to make sure that school districts follow the rules that we set out - that is a mandatory thing, wearing a mask," Pritzker said.

• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez contributed to this report.

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