Gov worries over Illinois’ uptick in cases, warns Metro East area could see return of virus rules
State health officials on Monday announced 1,173 new coronavirus cases and six additional deaths.
It was the fifth day in the past week that public health officials reported more than 1,000 new cases.
Despite the uptick in infections, the state’s death toll from COVID-19 maintained its relatively lower level, with only six new deaths reported, the second consecutive day with that number.
The seven-day positivity rate also crept up a hair to 3%, from 2.9% over the weekend. The uptick in cases comes as Gov. J.B. Pritzker has voiced concerns that the state is moving backward and may need to potentially reverse course from Phase 4 to Phase 3 in the reopening process — worries he repeated on Monday.
“I worry about that, I don’t think I wake up in the morning thinking ‘Today’s the day where we’re going to announce it,’ ” Pritzker said at a news conference in Peoria. “I worry about it because our numbers should be going down when, actually, they’re about steady. And that’s not a good development. Steady is better than up, I mean let’s face it, but what should be happening is we should continue the downward slide.”
And just hours later, state public health officials announced they were “closely monitoring a rise in cases” in the downstate Illinois towns that are part of the St. Louis metropolitan area.
The positivity rate in the Metro East area, Region 4 in Pritzker’s revised reopening plan, exceeded 7% on Monday, the seventh day of rising positivity rates. If the area sees three days in a row with averages above 8%, it automatically triggers “the first tier of mitigation steps.”
Throughout Illinois, health officials have reported eight days with more than 1,000 new cases in the first 20 days of July, compared to only two such days in all of June. The latest batch of new cases brings the daily average so far this month to 978.
The fatality rate has been a different story. So far, the state is averaging about 19 deaths a day in July, down sharply from 100 a day in May. The state’s death toll now stands at 7,301, bringing the average to about 58 deaths a day since mid-March.
The state’s case count stands at 162,748.
The new cases come from a total of 34,598 tests done in the last day. The state has performed a total of 2,279,109 tests.
Pritzker also hammered on the importance of wearing a face mask.
“If you are walking anywhere in public, please wear a mask. You don’t have to belittle people who aren’t wearing a mask, but they should get the idea when everyone else is wearing a mask,” Pritzker said.
“If I told you that you could take a pill that would reduce your likelihood of getting COVID-19 by 80%, wouldn’t you do it? Well, that’s what masks do, reduce your likelihood of transmitting or getting transmitted to you by 80%,” Pritzker said.
“Having a president who does not wear a mask and does not encourage everyone to wear a mask is a problem, not to mention denying science,” he said.
In Metro East, public health officials have linked some of the upticks in cases to a party bus company and a winery in the area that has hosted large events, “contrary to public health guidance.” Residents traveling back and forth to Missouri, with looser COVID-19 restrictions, could also be a factor, officials said.
Looming mitigation steps could include prohibiting indoor drinking and dining, a reduction in elective surgeries, as well as additional limits on crowd size for a host of activities.
In a statement, Pritzker urged “county and local officials in the Metro East region to take action in response to those who refuse to help keep people safe and to consider broader mitigations before the state is required to take action.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks with people earlier this month during a visit to a COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School in South Chicago. SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO