Gov wor­ries over Illi­nois’ uptick in cases, warns Metro East area could see re­turn of virus rules

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCH DUDEK AND TINA SFONDELES Staff Re­porters

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

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