DuPage County trips virus warning as officials probe graduation party, youth sports
New cases of COVID-19 in Illinois surpassed 2,000 Friday for the first time since Saturday, reaching 2,145, with 32 people dying from the respiratory disease, officials said.
The latest data came as DuPage County landed on a list of 30 counties showing signs of a virus surge.
DuPage County has 89 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people -- over the state's target of 50 -- and shows an increasing death rate instead of staying stable or decreasing, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported. Six people died of the virus in DuPage between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, compared with four from Aug. 23 to 29.
"These increases tell us too many people are not following public health guidelines. We need everyone to take this seriously," DuPage County Health Department Executive Director Karen Ayala said. She encouraged residents to wear masks, social-distance and wash hands frequently.
The health department is investigating nine virus outbreaks originating from a graduation party, youth sports and workplaces. Of DuPage County's 18 outbreaks, nine occurred in nursing homes.
If a county trips two or more metrics, it will trigger a warning, which is intended to inform residents and encourage local leaders to stem the trend.
Suburban Cook, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties are on alert for just one metric -- high virus cases per 100,000 people, according to data through Sept. 5.
Illinois' seven-day virus test positivity rate is 3.9%. Labs reported 55,661 tests were performed in the last 24 hours and the daily positivity rate is 3.8%.
At a news conference about unemployment insurance problems, state Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles said "we are six months, almost seven months into this pandemic and things have yet to improve at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. A new callback system, purchased to the tune of $22 million, continues to operate in a state of dysfunction. Callbacks either are not happening or take weeks."
Gilberts resident Sue Sloan, who lost her part-time job at a fitness center because of the pandemic, said IDES is now harassing her to pay back $6,700 she received in unemployment benefits.
"I have been in a panic," Sloan said, adding she received three letters stating she does not qualify for benefits. "There was no explanation. ... It's been a nightmare. I've done exactly what IDES said to do."
At a briefing Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a $16.6 million job program with federal funds to train Illinoisans who have lost their jobs for new positions related to the pandemic, such as contact tracing.
The lack of a national strategy, such as mandating masks across the U.S., is hamstringing Illinois, which requires face coverings in public, Pritzker said.
"I just looked at Iowa and Missouri -- those are literally double, almost triple our positivity rates. They're on our border and people are crossing that border all the time, both ways," he said. Neither state has a mask rule.
"I'm very prayerful and hopeful that we will see a vaccine sometime soon. I hope that will change the trajectory here ... but we're never going to be able to recover the economy that we once had unless we have true national leadership on this," Pritzker said.
The number of patients in Illinois hospitals as of Thursday night was 1,619, up from the seven-day average of 1,550.
Total infections statewide stand at 257,788 with 8,273 deaths, the IDPH announced.
Will and Kankakee counties (making up Illinois public health Region 7) are still showing a positive rate over 6.5%, the level needed to lift state restrictions like a ban on indoor dining, IDPH data showed Friday.
The 29 other counties on the warning list with DuPage are outside the metro region.