Illinois COVID-19 update: Indoor dining in suburban Cook County to be suspended

  • Rising COVID-19 test positivity rates and increasing hospitalizations have caused the state to impose restrictions on suburban Cook County.

      Rising COVID-19 test positivity rates and increasing hospitalizations have caused the state to impose restrictions on suburban Cook County. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, April 2020

 
 
Updated 10/26/2020 6:49 PM

Indoor dining at suburban Cook County restaurants and bars will be suspended effective Wednesday as the region joins a spiraling list of locations across Illinois where surging COVID-19 cases have triggered restrictions.

A combination of rising virus test positivity rates and hospitalizations caused the Illinois Department of Public Health to crack down, officials said Monday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The announcement comes after the state reported 4,729 new COVID-19 cases and 17 more deaths Monday. The number of new daily cases has increased by 69% in October -- 3,297 so far this month, up from an average of 1,952 between Sept. 1 and 26.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker also warned Lake and McHenry counties could face similar restrictions "later this week" if their virus test positivity rate, which has reached 8.1%, stays at that level.

"Remember, this is not over. There seems to be a COVID-19 storm on the rise and we have to get prepared. Please mask up, and we'll get through all of this and to the other side," Pritzker said at a briefing in Peoria.

The state's virus test positivity rate is 6.3% based on a seven-day average; it was 5.4% a week ago.

Suburban Cook is the first region in the state to have eight consecutive days of rising COVID-19 test positivity and seven days of increased hospital admissions, which triggered the mitigation.

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The actions also mean restaurants and bars must close at 11 p.m. In addition, any meetings, social events or gatherings now must be limited to 25 or fewer people or 25% of room capacity, compared to the current level of 50 people or 50% capacity.

Watch the weather, consolidate the outdoor heaters and work the carryout meals, is the battle plan for Derek Hanley, owner of Peggy Kinnane's Irish Restaurant and Pub in Arlington Heights.

"It's a bit of a challenge," Hanley said. "We have the outdoor permit so we'll still do outdoor dining. On Wednesday, it's supposed to be 47 degrees. But if starts pouring at lunch, we'll have to shut down. We're just going to be doing it day by day, hour by hour."

Suburban Cook's test positivity rate is at 7.7% based on a rolling average, and it's been rising for eight days, Cook County Department of Public Health Co-Lead Rachel Rubin said. On Oct. 16, the rate was 6.8%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Sunday, Cook County reported more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours.

Hospital admission increases in Cook County have grown from 31 on Oct. 13 to 49 patients as of Thursday, according to IDPH data Monday. A total of 30% of ICU beds are available and 25% of medical/surgical beds are available; anything below 20% is another risk factor that could cause state intervention.

Statewide, there were 57,264 tests recorded in the last 24 hours.

The number of patients in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 is at 2,638 as of Sunday evening, an increase from the seven-day average of 2,488.

Total cases of COVID-19 are 378,985, and the number of people who have succumbed to the virus is 9,522.

The dining suspension comes amid pushback from some suburban restaurants that defied orders to close indoor seating in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties Friday. The four counties also face restrictions after their test positivity rates surpassed 8%, which trips state action after three days.

But Brian Roginski, owner of Cortland's Garage Tavern & Grill in Arlington Heights, intends to "play by the rules."

"We're hoping and praying for a miracle," said Cortland, who is optimistic he'll still deck the tavern for its annual tiki bar "Sippin' Santa" makeover. "I'd rather not go down quietly," he said.

To return to relative normalcy, suburban Cook's positivity rate must drop to 6.5% or less for three days, COVID-19 hospital admissions must decrease for three days, and the availability of ICU and medical/surgical beds must be at 20% or greater over seven days.

For scofflaws, Illinois State Police "can't patrol everywhere all the time," Pritzker said. But officers will be sent to known rule-breakers, first to issue a warning, and second to issue a citation and fine up to $2,500. The state is also empowered to pull liquor and gaming licenses.

Pritzker also said the state has no plans to reconvert McCormick Place to a field hospital. The convention center was equipped this spring to handle patients if hospitals were overwhelmed, which did not transpire.

The state imposed similar restrictions Monday on the Metro East Region near St. Louis for the second time, which includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties. The region had a positivity rate of above 8% for the last three days.

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