Two sub­ur­ban coun­ties at ‘warn­ing level’ as state sees nearly three-month high in COVID cases

Chicago Sun-Times - - CHICAGO SUN TIMES - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT,

An­other 2,264 res­i­dents have tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, Illi­nois’ largest caseload in al­most three months and the third time the state has topped 2,000 daily cases over the last week.

The Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health on Fri­day also an­nounced 25 more deaths at­trib­uted to the virus, rais­ing the state’s pan­demic death toll to 7,721.

And two Chicago area coun­ties — Will and Kane — are now at the state’s “warn­ing level” be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of trou­bling signs, in­clud­ing ig­nor­ing or not un­der­stand­ing mask re­quire­ments.

The state is now av­er­ag­ing more than 1,700 new cases per day over the first two weeks of Au­gust — al­most dou­ble the rate in early July — an in­crease that has Illi­nois tee­ter­ing back toward con­di­tions dur­ing the peak month of May when al­most 2,200 peo­ple were in­fected each day.

“The num­ber of cases we’re re­port­ing each day has been in­creas­ing. The pos­i­tiv­ity rate has been in­creas­ing. These are all facts,” Illi­nois Pub­lic Health Di­rec­tor Dr. Ngozi Ezike said ear­lier this week. “Let’s bring the num­bers down by us­ing the sim­ple but ef­fec­tive tools that we do have to fight against this en­emy — that in­cludes mask­ing, hand-wash­ing and dis­tanc­ing six feet.”

Fri­day’s to­tal is the high­est since Illi­nois of­fi­cials an­nounced 2,508 new cases May 24. The most cases the state has seen in a sin­gle day was 4,014 on May 12.

Fri­day’s cases were con­firmed among 49,541 tests — the sec­ond-high­est to­tal ever sub­mit­ted to the state — rais­ing the state’s pos­i­tiv­ity rate over the last week to 4.1%.

The down­state Metro East re­gion has passed a key thresh­old set by the state with an 8.2% pos­i­tiv­ity rate. If it stays over 8% for two more days, the state will in­ter­vene to “im­ple­ment mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures,” ac­cord­ing to the health depart­ment, po­ten­tially shut­ting down busi­nesses.

Chicago and sub­ur­ban Cook County have held rel­a­tively steady over the last week, with pos­i­tiv­ity rates of 5.1% and 5.9%, re­spec­tively.

But two nearby coun­ties — Will and Kane — have been branded as be­ing at the “warn­ing level” by the state health depart­ment be­cause of a num­ber of coro­n­avirus test­ing and hos­pi­tal­iza­tion met­rics.

They’re two of 14 “warn­ing level” coun­ties scat­tered across the state. The oth­ers are Bu­reau, Grundy and LaSalle in north­ern Illi­nois; Cass, Han­cock, Moul­trie and Greene in the cen­tral part of the state, and Clin­ton, Franklin, Jef­fer­son, Perry and Union in south­ern Illi­nois.

Of­fi­cials say out­breaks in the tar­geted coun­ties were traced to “wed­dings, busi­nesses, birth­day par­ties, long-term care fa­cil­i­ties and other con­gre­gate set­tings, bars, sports camps, and spread among mem­bers of the same house­hold.”

Many res­i­dents there “are not wear­ing masks, or if they are, they are be­ing worn in­cor­rectly,” ac­cord­ing to the state health depart­ment, which blamed some lo­cal lead­ers for “in­con­sis­tent mes­sag­ing” on mask­ing and so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines.

The state flagged south­west sub­ur­ban Will County for two risk in­di­ca­tors: an in­crease in emer­gency room vis­its for COVID-19-like symp­toms, and for a rate of 93 new cases per 100,000 res­i­dents over the last week. The tar­get is 50 or fewer cases per 100,000.

The lat­est large caseload comes a day af­ter the state crossed the 200,000-case mark dating back to early March. That means al­most 2% of the state’s 12.7 mil­lion res­i­dents have tested pos­i­tive.

A to­tal of 202,691 peo­ple have tested pos­i­tive statewide, among nearly 3.3 mil­lion tested.

An­other 211 deaths and 1,332 non­fa­tal in­fec­tions are con­sid­ered to have been “prob­a­ble” COVID-19 cases, though those vic­tims and pa­tients were never tested.

As of Thurs­day night, 1,612 Illi­nois coro­n­avirus pa­tients were hos­pi­tal­ized, with 345 in in­ten­sive care and 126 on ven­ti­la­tors.

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, di­rec­tor of the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health.

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