DuPage, Kane, McHenry leaders: We shouldn't be on same reopening timeline as Cook County, Chicago
A push intensified Tuesday to let the collar counties progress separately from Cook and Chicago toward Gov. J.B. Pritzker's COVID-19 bench marks for reopening the economy.
Leaders representing DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties called on Pritzker to remove their areas from the Northeast region under the Restore Illinois plan, which also includes Cook, Grundy, Lake, Kankakee, Kendall and Will counties.
County leaders, mayors and at least one state representative say the coronavirus situation in their communities is much different from what it is in Cook County and Chicago, where the high concentrations of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred.
"When it comes to recovery, our situation is much more akin to Boone and DeKalb counties and points west than the Chicago metro area," McHenry County Chairman Jack Franks said in a news release.
Under Restore Illinois, the ability to reopen more businesses in each of four regions is dependent on regional data. COVID-19-related statistics, including testing positivity rate, hospital admissions and hospital capacity from all counties in each region are averaged together to determine when the region will meet the bench marks to move to a less restrictive phase.
The Northeast region now is in Phase 2 and looking to move to Phase 3 by sustaining a testing positivity rate at or below 20% for 14 days; showing no increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses for 28 days; and keeping at least 14% of hospital intensive care beds, medical and surgical beds and ventilators available.
Positivity rate is the largest factor holding that progress back, at 21.4% for the region, according to a seven-day rolling average compiled Tuesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
State rolling averages show the positivity rates in suburban Cook County and Chicago are above the 20% level, at 20.2% for suburban Cook and 23.2% for Chicago. But the rates also top 20% in Kane and Lake counties, at 24.5% for Kane and 25.6% for Lake.
Barb Jeffers, executive director of the Kane County public health department, said the county has seen dangerous outbreaks in factories and nursing homes but has not seen the same spread of the virus as Chicago.
Kane County's stats show 90 deaths out of 3,189 confirmed COVID-19 cases. That means 97.2% of county residents who have had the virus have recovered or are in treatment. County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said 92% of the 90 people who have died were in nursing homes when they contracted the virus.
Similarly, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said all 24 deaths in Naperville related to COVID-19 have originated from senior care facilities.
Chirico joined other DuPage municipal leaders, including Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley and Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, in saying the county's ability to reopen businesses should be based only on data from the DuPage County Health Department. The county as of Tuesday had a 17.9% infection positivity rate.
McHenry County officials asked to be lumped in with the north-central region, which includes 27 largely rural counties. The county's positivity rate as of Tuesday was at 16.6%.
Kane County leaders suggested reopening based on the 11 emergency medical services regions established in Illinois long before the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
Pritzker said the four regions in the Restore Illinois plan are based on numbers of hospitals, ventilators, ICU beds and health care essentials. He said it would be impractical to bend the rules for one or two towns, particularly given how many suburbanites travel to Chicago.
"This virus is still out there and it is still killing people," Pritzker said. "So everybody wanting to go back and open up their businesses and just put people at risk willy-nilly need to look at the data, look at the science."
• Daily Herald staff writers James Fuller, Marni Pyke and Jake Griffin contributed to this report.