New limits in Lake, McHenry start Saturday amid 6,110 new state COVID-19 cases, 51 deaths
New cases of COVID-19 totaled 6,110 Wednesday as Lake and McHenry counties now join the rest of the suburbs and Chicago in facing virus-related restrictions that include a temporary ban on indoor dining.
The measures go into effect Saturday and were imposed Wednesday after the two counties hit three days of 8% or higher positive results on COVID-19 tests.
"If we aren't able to bring down the number of cases and transmissions, not only will our economy continue to suffer, but there will be many more people hospitalized ... and too many will die," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a briefing.
The state also reported 51 news deaths Wednesday.
Tightened restrictions begin Friday in Chicago and are in place in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties, as well as large parts of downstate.
The virus positivity rate in Lake and McHenry, which make up the health department's Region 9, was 8.4% as of Sunday, data Wednesday showed. The COVID-19-related hospitalization count is three times the September tally and five times June's.
"In other words, things are bad in Region 9 and getting worse," Pritzker said.
So far, the Illinois State Police have issued citations of up to $2,500 in five counties to restaurants or bars that are openly ignoring masking and social distancing, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said. Warnings are given first.
"Unfortunately, we have some business owners, you got waitresses, waiters, cook staff -- they're just outright refusing to wear masks, and right now, that's just kind of gross. And it's definitely a way to spread this disease," Kelly said.
Illinois' 6,110 daily cases are the most since Saturday, which had 6,161, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported. This week, new cases of the respiratory disease averaged 4,840 a day compared to 3,945 Oct. 15 to 21 -- or 895 more infections a day.
The statewide COVID-19 test positivity rate hit 6.7% based on a seven-day average, reflecting an upward trend. The single-day infection rate is 8.6%, the highest since June 2.
As Illinois weathers its latest surge, head-spinning divergences of opinion are cropping up. Addison teachers rallied for an immediate return to remote learning to save lives Wednesday as some restaurateurs this week served customers indoors despite bans, saying their businesses were on the brink.
"Our main concern is rising rates in Illinois," Addison Teachers Association Co-President Allison Andrikokus said.
"We want to keep our students safe, we want to keep our families safe. The odds are getting worse, and we want to mitigate as many risk factors as possible."
Duke Ross, of Main Street Social in Libertyville, hopes to supplement the lack of indoor dining with a sheltered patio and tent plus a boost in carryout meals, which did a "fantastic" business during the spring stay-at-home order. "We're relatively lucky," Ross said.
He's concerned about the specter of layoffs, but "we want to do what's best for the people that work here and the guests that come here. I would feel horrible if someone dined here ... and they got sick."
Republican senators want hearings on how Gov. J.B. Pritzker is handling the pandemic. They claim the state is taking actions that could close restaurants and bars across the state without providing data to justify it.
"Throughout this crisis, the governor has acted pretty much unilaterally," Senate GOP Leader Bill Brady said Wednesday news conference. "We've asked a lot of questions, but haven't always gotten answers."
And Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin wrote and publicized a letter to the governor in which he said he did not support the restaurant and bar restrictions without uniform enforcement. The restrictions applying to only three out of the four counties in which Aurora resides -- Kane, DuPage and Will, but not Kendall -- creates enforcement problems for the city, he said.
"It is particularly difficult given the fact that the data which has been released by our local health departments does not support bars and restaurants as significant sources contributing to the spread, yet they are being singled out if, and only if, their establishment resides in a county that is enforcing the measures," he wrote. "Moreover, other businesses and settings that the data reflects are contributing to the spread are not subject to the enhanced mitigation measures. This has led to misinformation and opposition to the mitigation measures taken."
Data from the state in August and September based on contact tracer interviews showed 2,300 people infected with COVID-19 had either dined or worked at restaurants and bars before their diagnosis. That is the highest count for a single kind of location; 2,649 people with the virus fell into a catchall category that includes vacations, weddings, family gatherings, college parties and other events.
Illinois is now up to 389,095 total cases with 9,619 deaths.
COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals totaled 2,861 as of Tuesday night, the highest hospitalization since June 4 with 2,911 people.
In addition to the indoor dining ban, restaurants must close outdoor service at 11 p.m., and gatherings, social events and meetings are limited to 25 people or 25% of room capacity.
A region will need to reach a 6.5% test positivity rate for three days or see a decrease in hospitalizations for officials to consider lifting restrictions.
In the spring, "we successfully flattened the curve then, and we can do it again," Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister said. "Please do not let your guard down in social settings, even around close friends and family who don't live in your home."
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.