‘Risky be­hav­ior’ in four down­state coun­ties prompts warn­ings as state re­ports 1,532 new cases

Gov warns four coun­ties at ‘warn­ing level’ as state sees third straight day of more than 1,000 cases

Chicago Sun-Times - - CHICAGO SUN TIMES - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF REPORTER mar­men­trout@sun­times.com | @mitchtrout

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s of­fice on Fri­day sin­gled out four down­state coun­ties for coro­n­avirus out­breaks tied to “busi­ness and risky be­hav­ior,” as the state ze­roes in on COVID-19 hot spots in an ef­fort to pre­vent a grad­ual statewide case in­crease from es­ca­lat­ing into a full­blown resur­gence.

Those four coun­ties scat­tered across the state — Adams, LaSalle, Peo­ria and Ran­dolph — are at a “warn­ing level” af­ter of­fi­cials traced out­breaks to lax mask­ing re­quire­ments at bars, youth sports and other high-risk gath­er­ings, ac­cord­ing to the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health.

Many of their new cases have been con­firmed in peo­ple 29 or younger, the de­mo­graphic health of­fi­cials have said is be­hind Illi­nois’ steady case in­crease over the last month.

And they’re among the lat­est 1,532 cases con­firmed statewide, mark­ing Illi­nois’ third straight day with a four-digit caseload. It’s the 11th time July has seen a 1,000-plus day, com­pared to just twice in June.

The new cases were con­firmed among 44,330 tests re­ceived by the state, keep­ing Illi­nois’ rolling test pos­i­tiv­ity rate at 3.4% over the last week.

That rate is up from 2.5% two weeks ago, a rise that Illi­nois Pub­lic Health Di­rec­tor Dr. Ngozi Ezike has stressed is not due to the state’s mas­sive jump in test­ing ca­pac­ity in July.

“Ac­tu­ally, if you do more test­ing, your pos­i­tiv­ity should go down,” Ezike said ear­lier this week. “So, yes, we’re see­ing in­creased trans­mis­sion.”

Since the state hit a three-month low with 462 new cases re­ported June 22, Illi­nois has av­er­aged 976 new cases per day. Thurs­day’s case to­tal of 1,624 was the high­est the state had seen in two months.

The health depart­ment sounded the alarm on the four “warn­ing level” coun­ties two days af­ter Pritzker called on “virus de­niers” and any­one who hasn’t been wear­ing their face cov­er­ings to get with the pro­gram.

“The en­emy is not your mask. If you’re not wear­ing a mask in pub­lic, you’re en­dan­ger­ing ev­ery­one around you, so the en­emy is you,” the Demo­cratic gover­nor said Wed­nes­day.

The prob­lem coun­ties fall in three sep­a­rate re­gions of Pritzker’s plan to tar­get po­ten­tial hot­beds of vi­ral resur­gence.

In Adams County in west-cen­tral Illi­nois, the state health depart­ment tied out­breaks to large so­cial events, places of wor­ship, youth sports, and travel to the hotspot states of Mis­souri and Iowa.

LaSalle County, in north-cen­tral Illi­nois, was sin­gled out for so­cial gath­er­ings, younger peo­ple flock­ing to bars and “in­con­sis­ten­cies with mask­ing re­quire­ments.”

Fourth of July par­ties sparked out­breaks in cen­trally lo­cated Peo­ria County, as well as trav­el­ers to Florida, Iowa, Texas and Wis­con­sin, state health of­fi­cials said.

Ran­dolph is in the Metro East re­gion near St. Louis, an area Pritzker has warned is “dan­ger­ously close” to a state in­ter­ven­tion — one that could po­ten­tially re­sult in some busi­nesses shut­ting down.

“Nu­mer­ous” bars there haven’t com­plied with so­cial dis­tanc­ing and mask­ing guide­lines, and more cases were tied to a party at­tended by more than 200 peo­ple, of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

Chicago and sub­ur­ban Cook County aren’t at the state’s warn­ing level, though of­fi­cials flagged both for rel­a­tively high case rates: 64 cases per 100,000 peo­ple in the city, and 56 per 100,000 in the sub­urbs.

Over­all, Illi­nois’ pos­i­tiv­ity rate is still less than half those of most nearby states.

And while cases have been on the rise, daily death tolls have re­mained about level. The state health depart­ment an­nounced 19 more deaths have been at­trib­uted to the virus, which mir­rors July’s daily av­er­age.

The state av­er­aged 98 deaths per day dur­ing its peak month of May, and 51 deaths per day as the state’s pan­demic curve flat­tened through June.

Since mid-March, the coro­n­avirus has claimed 7,385 lives in Illi­nois. A to­tal of 168,457 peo­ple have been con­firmed car­ry­ing the virus among more than 2.4 mil­lion tested.

Of­fi­cials have said young peo­ple ac­count for most of the new cases, but nurs­ing homes and other long-term care fa­cil­i­ties still ac­count for more than half the state’s coro­n­avirus death toll: 4,062 deaths among the 24,106 cases tied to those fa­cil­i­ties.


Gov. J.B. Pritzker

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