Some suburban counties likely to face restrictions amid spike in COVID-19 infections
DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties are on the verge of having state-mandated restrictions imposed after their COVID-19 test positivity rates surpassed warning thresholds, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures.
"We're now entering a new wave of this virus," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday. "Every region of the state is moving in the wrong direction. Cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths are all rising statewide."
Two suburban regions -- Region 8 with DuPage and Kane counties and Region 7 with Will and Kankakee counties -- are exceeding the state's 8% threshold for positive results on COVID-19 tests, according to IDPH figures.
Both regions' seven-day average rates have been over the 8% threshold for two days. A third day will trigger a mitigation plan designed to restrict gatherings until positivity rates decline.
That usually takes several weeks after the beginning of restrictions such as reduced hours of operation for some businesses, banning indoor food and bar service, and limiting gatherings to 25 or fewer people or 25% of room capacity.
The southernmost Illinois region of 19 counties is also exceeding the positivity rate threshold, according to IDPH figures. It will have mitigation restrictions imposed starting Thursday, Pritzker announced at Monday's news conference.
In Kane County, health officials are investigating whether a Sept. 27 rally attended by thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump at the county fairgrounds in St. Charles aided the recent spike in cases. Photos and video from the rally show crowds packed together tightly with few wearing masks.
The day the event was held, the county's seven-day average infection rate was 4.8%. On Monday, the county's average infection rate was 9.2%, the highest among suburban counties.
"I know this is an ongoing investigation, so I'm not sure we can comment," Kane County Health Department spokeswoman Susan Stack said.
Meanwhile, state health officials announced 22 more COVID-19 deaths Monday and 3,113 new cases of the respiratory disease.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is in the midst of a "second surge" of the virus and warned residents to heed precautions or face restrictions on businesses and group gatherings like the limits during the spring.
"We, as a city government, are looking at every tool in our tool box -- including rolling back to Phase 3 restrictions or other measures as needed," Lightfoot said. Phase 3 limited groups to 10 people; banned indoor dining, bar service and fitness classes; and mandated remote learning.
"I don't want to go there -- particularly for those who are in business, the small businesses who have already suffered through a very difficult year," the mayor said. "This would be tragedy for many of them. But I've got to do what is right to protect us from this virus."
The state's death toll from the disease stands at 9,236, while 347,161 Illinois residents have been infected.
IDPH is reporting 97% of those who have contracted COVID-19 have since recovered, but the state is also experiencing widespread growth in cases, hospitalizations and death.
The state's infection rate is at 5.4%, based on a seven-day average. A week ago on Monday, the rate was just 4.3%.
Hospitals statewide reported Sunday that 2,096 patients are being treated, and 485 of them are in intensive care. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs increased by 77 from Saturday to Sunday, the largest single-day uptick since IDPH started tracking in early April.
Dr. Craig Davis, a physician in the southern Illinois region that will be put under restriction soon, said hospital admissions in his area have "tripled" in recent days.
"My colleagues and I have witnessed the agony of our patients' families as they wait for news of a recovery and the devastation they feel when their loved ones succumb to this," Davis said. "What is most alarming is the complacency I see in some of our community members and the polarization over simple prevention methods, especially surrounding masks and social distancing. Please consider these short-term sacrifices for the greater good. The enemy is disease, not each other."
IDPH officials are also reporting the state is averaging 34 deaths each day over the past week from the virus. A month ago, the state was averaging 21 deaths a day from COVID-19.
Pritzker was optimistic about the state's ability to handle this new wave of the virus.
"We know a good deal more about how to monitor and address this pandemic than we did before," he said. "We've built up resources preparing for the possibility of a fall or winter wave."
He added that because of the resurgence of the virus, he and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike will be holding daily news briefings to update residents on the state's ongoing battle against the spread of the virus.
"If you're tired and let your guard down, now is the time to pick it back up again," Pritzker said. "Things are getting worse. Wear a mask wherever you go. Get your flu shot. Forego unnecessary trips and gatherings, and take extra care to stay 6 feet away from others, especially in public."