FAR SOUTH SUB­URBS HIT WITH ‘MIT­I­GA­TIONS’ OVER POS­I­TIVE COVID TEST RISE

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@sun­times.com @mitchtrout

A wide swath of Chicago’s south sub­urbs took a step back­ward from their coro­n­avirus re­open­ings Mon­day as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s of­fice an­nounced tighter business re­stric­tions in Will and Kanka­kee coun­ties due to a rise in pos­i­tive coro­n­avirus tests.

Be­gin­ning on Wed­nes­day, bars and restau­rants in the re­gion are barred from seat­ing cus­tomers in­doors and out­door ser­vice will be cut off at 11 p.m., un­der the new COVID-19 “mit­i­ga­tions” handed down by the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor’s of­fice.

Party buses are banned, and casi­nos, which have to close by 11 p.m. as well, will be capped at 25% ca­pac­ity along with most other venues. The re­stric­tions don’t ap­ply to schools, Pritzker’s of­fice said.

Will and Kanka­kee coun­ties were sad­dled with the re­stric­tions be­cause the re­gion’s test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate topped 8% for three con­sec­u­tive days, the thresh­old set by Pritzker’s health team that trig­gers a state in­ter­ven­tion. Ex­perts say the pos­i­tiv­ity rate in­di­cates how rapidly the virus is spread­ing through a re­gion.

Af­ter sev­eral weeks of steady in­creases, and two days af­ter first cross­ing the 8% mark, the Wil­lKanka­kee re­gion clocked in at 8.3% Mon­day.

Their mit­i­ga­tions could be lifted if the pos­i­tiv­ity rate dips be­low 6.5% af­ter two weeks — or they could be tight­ened fur­ther if it’s still at 8% or higher by then.

The reg­u­la­tions are al­ready more strin­gent than the ones im­posed last week in the down­state Metro East re­gion, where in­door bar restau­rant ser­vice has been lim­ited but not prohibited. That re­gion, near St. Louis, still stands at 9.4% pos­i­tiv­ity and has un­til Sept. 2 to lower its rate or else face “fur­ther mit­i­ga­tion,” Pritzker’s of­fice said.

At a coro­n­avirus brief­ing last week, Pritzker said “the re­gional specifics” of mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts are “de­pen­dent upon the types of ac­tiv­i­ties that are most likely caus­ing or could cause greater com­mu­nity spread of the virus across the state.”

“We won’t hes­i­tate to tighten re­stric­tions to pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties,” Pritzker said Aug. 19. “Your health and safety is my para­mount con­cern.”

The re­gional re­open­ing rollback came af­ter the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Public Health an­nounced 1,612 newly con­firmed cases of COVID-19 statewide.

Illi­nois’ lat­est cases were con­firmed among 36,155 tests sub­mit­ted, keep­ing the state’s test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate over the last week at 4.2%. Num­bers have in­creased in seven of the state’s 11 re­gions over the last week. The statewide rate in­creased from 2.5% in early July to 4.4% last week be­fore a slight dip last week­end.

Chicago’s pos­i­tiv­ity rate dropped a notch to 5.2% Mon­day, but subur­ban Cook County has inched closer to warn­ing-level num­bers. It’s at 6.7%, up half a per­cent­age point from a week ago.

Af­ter a mid-May pan­demic peak, Illi­nois cases have surged back up­ward since July. Over the last two weeks, the state has av­er­aged 1,885 new coro­n­avirus cases per day, more than triple the state’s run­ning rate on June 24.

Of­fi­cials have tied Illi­nois’ in­crease to out­breaks caused by lax so­cial dis­tanc­ing and mask­ing guide­lines be­ing fol­lowed at bars, restau­rants, par­ties and other large gath­er­ings — largely due to “COVID fa­tigue” among many res­i­dents itch­ing to get back to nor­mal.

Health of­fi­cials on Mon­day also an­nounced the lat­est eight deaths at­trib­uted to COVID-19, in­clud­ing two Cook County men, one in his 60s and an­other in his 80s.

Since March, 3.7 mil­lion peo­ple have been tested for the coro­n­avirus in Illi­nois, al­most 220,000 have tested pos­i­tive and 7,888 of those have died.

But Illi­nois hos­pi­tals are still well within their ca­pac­ity. As of Sun­day night, 1,529 peo­ple were hos­pi­tal­ized with COVID-19 statewide, with 334 in in­ten­sive care units and 141 on ven­ti­la­tors.

A new class of po­lice of­fi­cers is join­ing the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment, en­ter­ing the po­lice force dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and height­ened civil un­rest fol­low­ing the mur­der of Ge­orge Floyd by Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cers.

“We’ve never had the two in­ter­sect, where you have a global pan­demic and un­prece­dented civil un­rest,” Chicago Po­lice Supt. David Brown said at a Mon­day news con­fer­ence. “Th­ese peo­ple are quite aware of those cir­cum­stances and that back­ground, and yet, they are com­mit­ted to this pro­fes­sion.”

The 81 new pro­ba­tion­ary po­lice of­fi­cers were the first re­cruit class to un­dergo youth-led neigh­bor­hood tours, part of Mayor Lori Light­foot’s prom­ise for po­lice re­form, Brown said. The new of­fi­cers will be trained, men­tored and eval­u­ated over the next three months.

“The new of­fi­cers are di­verse, com­ing from all back­grounds and neigh­bor­hoods through­out Chicago,” Brown said, “and are in­creas­ingly re­flec­tive of the com­mu­ni­ties they have sworn to pro­tect and serve.”

Brown said of­fi­cers are mon­i­tor­ing the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing of a Black man by po­lice of­fi­cers in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin. “We are ob­vi­ously ad­just­ing based on the in­for­ma­tion com­ing from, not only what hap­pened in Wis­con­sin, but what hap­pens here in Chicago,” Brown said.

Brown said the “ma­jor­ity” of CPD of­fi­cers are com­mit­ted to do­ing their jobs the right way, but in light of a “his­tory of mis­con­duct,” Brown said the con­tin­gent of CPD of­fi­cers that don’t fol­low their train­ing or treat peo­ple with re­spect will be held ac­count­able. Last week­end, of­fi­cers made 78 gun ar­rests and re­cov­ered 98 guns, Brown said, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of guns re­cov­ered this year to 6,701. There were 39 shoot­ing in­ci­dents last week­end, Brown said, re­sult­ing in 59 vic­tims — in­clud­ing two chil­dren — and five mur­ders.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES FILE

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said, “We won’t hes­i­tate to tighten re­stric­tions to pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties.”

David Brown

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