2,084 new COVID-19 cases as Pritzker announces tougher face mask enforcement
As new cases of COVID-19 surge, hitting 2,084 Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced tougher measures to enforce face coverings and group size limits and to fine businesses and schools that don't comply up to $2,500.
There were 21 additional COVID-19 deaths, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported. The last time the daily caseload topped 2,000 was May 24.
That brings the total Illinois cases to 190,508 and fatalities to 7,613.
The IDPH is filing emergency rules that would give law enforcement and local health departments the ability to issue warnings, then levy penalties for businesses and schools that don't enforce wearing masks.
"We're at a make or break" moment in the state, Pritzker said in Chicago. The new policies, which also include child-care centers, are intended to reduce the spread of the virus. Individuals would not be fined.
A panel of state lawmakers must first approve the policies.
Some schools in certain areas of the state have said they don't intend to require masks, Pritzker said.
"We have a mandate for schools that when they are reopening, people must wear masks. This gives county public health authorities the ability to go in and consult with the schools and to give them a better enforcement mechanism or at least better ideas on how to make sure schools are safer."
Meanwhile, large crowds at bars are raising alarms about infections among people in their 20s, health experts say.
Currently, the size of gatherings is limited to 50 and fewer. Face masks in public areas were mandated May 1.
The enforcement would begin with educating those who don't follow mandates, then ordering a reduction in gathering sizes, then slapping scofflaws with a misdemeanor and fines ranging from $75 to $2,500.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs criticized the actions, calling on Pritzker "to abandon his 'mask rule' and work with the legislature on this issue."
"I am committed to respecting his priorities while recognizing the undue hardship his current rule places on businesses that are already struggling across Illinois," he said.
The governor had attempted similar enforcement rules that were met with resistance by lawmakers this spring, and he withdrew them.
Pritzker also signed a law that creates penalties for anyone assaulting retail workers who ask customers to wear masks, and extends disabilities benefits for injured police and firefighters if their recoveries were hindered by COVID-19.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is 1,486 across the state.
Meanwhile, the state's virus test positivity rate was 4.4% based on 46,869 tests, up from 4% on Thursday. The seven-day average is 4.1%.
"As I've visited with and listened to mayors and health departments all across our state, it's clear there is still an even greater need to get people to wear masks -- especially to protect front-line workers, whether they're at the front of a store asking you to put on your mask or whether they're responding to 911 calls to save those in distress," Pritzker said.
"These rules, which provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, are a common sense way to enforce public health guidelines," he said. "These rules will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won't take our state backward."
The state has eased COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions gradually with a five-phase plan. Illinois is in Phase 4 that allows gatherings of 50 or less and indoor dining, for example. Since Phase 4 began June 26, there has been an average of 1,188 daily cases of COVID-19.
In Phase 3, which had more restrictions such as permitting gatherings of 10 or less, new cases averaged 835 a day.
The state is divided into 11 regions to monitor COVID-19 conditions and predict whether a surge is occurring.
A combination of sustained increases in the test positivity rate and hospitalizations, or a reduction below 20% in the number of ICU or hospital beds available can trigger restrictions for a region, such as banning indoor dining at restaurants.
Another trigger is three consecutive days with an 8% or greater positivity rate.
Hospitalizations are growing, averaging 1,460 during the last seven days, compared to 1,420.6 on average from July 24 to 30.
Updated metrics for the suburban regions show no warnings issued yet for increases in hospital admissions and positivity rates. Average test positivity rates as of Tuesday by region included 5.7% in suburban Cook County, 4.5% in DuPage and Kane counties, 5.1% in Lake and McHenry counties, and 5.9% in Will and Kankakee counties.
Separate statistics show the suburbs tripped state warning levels in one metric for exceeding 50 per 100,000 cases of COVID-19 for the week ending Aug. 1, the IDPH reported Friday. Kane County is at 91 cases per 100,000 people, McHenry is at 80, Lake is at 76, Will is at 71, suburban Cook is at 67, and DuPage County is at 64.
The localized information is intended to help Illinoisans make informed decisions about going to other counties amid the pandemic.
Thirteen counties outside the metro area were red-flagged by IDPH for triggering warnings in two or more health metrics Friday: Cass, Coles, Grundy, Iroquois, Jackson, Monroe, Perry, Saline, St. Clair, Tazewell, Union, Williamson, and Winnebago.