As COVID-19 ‘rages on,’ Pritzker warns lo­cals to take ac­tion — or state ‘will be forced to step in’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@sun­ | @mitchtrout

Health of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day an­nounced an­other 1,759 peo­ple have tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19 across Illi­nois, mark­ing the third­high­est daily caseload in two months and the 15th straight day the state has re­ported 1,000 or more cases.

Over the last four weeks, Illi­nois has had 23 days with four-digit caseloads — fol­low­ing a full month with­out hit­ting that level.

The Illi­nois De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health also re­ported 30 more peo­ple suf­fer­ing from COVID-19 have died, just the sec­ond time the state has tal­lied 30 or more deaths in al­most a month.

Ex­perts pre­dict a spike in deaths dur­ing the next few weeks, the grim re­sult of Illi­nois’ steady in­crease in cases since late June and an uptick in hos­pi­tal­iza­tions over the last two weeks.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the virus rages on,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a COVID-19 brief­ing.

And the only way it’ll be con­tained, ac­cord­ing to the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor, is if lo­cal gov­ern­ments step up en­force­ment of mask­ing and so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines — and res­i­dents take them se­ri­ously.

“Other­wise, it will only be a mat­ter of time be­fore the state of Illi­nois will be forced to step in on a re­gional ba­sis and im­pose resur­gence mit­i­ga­tions, like clos­ing bars, in­door din­ing, and more, to re­duce the spread of the virus,” Pritzker said.

The state has av­er­aged more than 1,500 new coro­n­avirus cases per day over the last two weeks. That’s dou­ble what the state was av­er­ag­ing this time last month.

Illi­nois’ lat­est cases were con­firmed among 46,668 tests, keeping the state’s test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate over the last week at 3.9%.

Re­gional test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rates have slightly im­proved over the last week. Just two of the state’s 11 med­i­cal re­gions des­ig­nated by Pritzker’s of­fice saw a full week or more of in­creases. Seven re­gions were hit­ting that thresh­old last weekend.

But those rates are still up across the board. A month ago, 10 re­gions were be­low 5%, Pritzker said. Five re­gions were be­low that bench­mark two weeks ago. Now it’s down to four.

The Metro East and south­ern Illi­nois re­gions are still hov­er­ing close to the 8% pos­i­tiv­ity rate that would trig­ger a state in­ter­ven­tion that could in­clude busi­ness shut­downs. Metro East was at 7.1% and south­ern Illi­nois at 7.2%.

“With­out lo­cal ac­tion, even more strin­gent reg­u­la­tions re­strict­ing pub­lic in­ter­ac­tion, or in the ex­treme, an­other stay-at-home order might be in your fu­ture,” Pritzker said.

As of Wed­nes­day, Chicago’s pos­i­tiv­ity rate was at 4.9% and sub­ur­ban Cook County’s at 5.7%.

Illi­nois Pub­lic Health Di­rec­tor Dr. Ngozi Ezike preached “per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity” and “com­mu­nity ac­count­abil­ity” while be­moan­ing large gath­er­ings of young peo­ple, in­clud­ing the “White Trash Bash” held Satur­day on the Illi­nois River in East Peo­ria.

“You’re tired of hear­ing it, I’m tired of talk­ing about it — be­lieve me, I want this over as much as ev­ery­one else — but this virus is not tired,” Ezike said. “In fact, it’s try­ing to gain mo­men­tum . ... Let’s do what’s right, and pro­tect our­selves and pro­tect oth­ers.”

Since March, a to­tal of 186,471 peo­ple have tested pos­i­tive for the virus among nearly 2.9 mil­lion who have been tested.

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