Pritzker tells local leaders to step up or state will be forced to 'roll things back'

With positive test results for COVID-19 trending up in counties including Lake, McHenry and Will, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday advised local leaders with virus surges to impose "targeted" restrictions on activities before the state intervenes.

Without county and municipal authorities acting, "it's only a matter of time before the state will be forced to step in and roll things back on a regional basis, which is something none of us want," he said.

The state health department reported 1,645 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday with 16 more deaths. That leaves the state caseload at 198,593 while fatalities statewide stand at 7,672.

The total number of tests performed is 3.2 million, and the latest seven-day positivity rate is 4.1%.

Tests conducted in the last 24 hours came to 42,098, with 3.9% testing positive.

Pritzker said recent data show Lake and McHenry counties, Will and Kankakee counties, and three other regions outside the metro area "were all seeing increases in the seven-day rolling average positivity rates for COVID-19."

Suburban Cook County and Chicago, and two other regions, are showing the same test positivity rates as a week ago. Only DuPage and Kane, and a region in east-central Illinois, are showing a slight decrease, he said.

One open question is whether daily counts of new cases will surge to 2,000 or higher, which occurred Friday and Saturday. The seven-day average for new cases is 1,731, compared to 1,621 between July 30 and Aug. 5.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals was 1,525 as of Tuesday night, 37 more than the August daily average of 1,488.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike warned that since the beginning of July, as the state dropped numerous restrictions and increased the size of allowable public gatherings, the numbers of cases, hospitalizations, emergency room visits and positive tests has increased.

"My concern is growing each day about the direction our numbers are going," Ezike said.

She also implored Illinoisans to wear face coverings. "Even if you think that masks don't help, then prove us wrong" by wearing one, Ezike said.

A legislative committee this week approved new Illinois Department of Public Health rules that allow local authorities to issue misdemeanor citations with fines of up to $2,500 on businesses and schools that defy mandates like social distancing and mask wearing.

The state can also take stricter measures such as suspending liquor licenses, for example, or cracking down on an entire region and suspending indoor dining or reducing gathering sizes.

The state is split into 11 regions to monitor COVID-19 conditions.

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.

The IDPH website indicated that as of Sunday, Will and Kane had a 6.7% positivity rate, Lake and McHenry had a 5.6% rate, suburban Cook had a 5.9% rate, and DuPage and Kane had a 4.8% rate.

Also Tuesday, Illinois Secretary of State officials closed a commercial driver's license facility in Elk Grove Village until Aug. 22 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. All workers at that location are quarantining for 14 days and the building is being cleaned and disinfected.

Three customers who came into contact with the employee have been notified by the IDPH and the situation "seems to be confined," said Dave Druker, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White.

Anyone inside driver's facilities must wear masks and social distance; plexiglass barriers also separate employees and customers. Employees administering driver's tests and applicants also must wear masks inside vehicles.

Druker noted that the public can renew licenses and vehicle stickers online. This is the 15th time a driver's facility in Illinois has had to shut down for virus-related reasons since late April.

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