SUB­UR­BAN COOK COUNTY COULD FACE CORO­N­AVIRUS CRACK­DOWN

As re­gion hits ‘warn­ing level,’ Preck­win­kle says of­fi­cials aren’t scal­ing back business op­er­a­tions for now, ‘but we are at a cross­roads’

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

Nearly a third of all Illi­nois coun­ties, in­clud­ing Will and sub­ur­ban Cook, are now at a COVID-19 “warn­ing level” amid the state’s sum­mer­time coro­n­avirus resur­gence, public health of­fi­cials an­nounced Fri­day.

Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle said of­fi­cials aren’t scal­ing back business op­er­a­tions any fur­ther for now, “but we are at a cross­roads.

“We need ev­ery­one to wear a mask, watch their dis­tance, and wash their hands con­sis­tently to slow the spread of COVID-19 so we don’t lose the gains we have made,” Preck­win­kle said in a state­ment.

The Illi­nois Depart­ment of Public Health slapped the “warn­ing level” la­bel on 30 of the state’s 102 coun­ties — up from 20 last week — as of­fi­cials an­nounced an ad­di­tional 2,149 new cases of the virus were con­firmed statewide.

That’s the eighth time this month that 2,000 or more new cases have been logged in a sin­gle day, which hadn’t hap­pened pre­vi­ously since mid-May when the state was suf­fer­ing through its ini­tial pan­demic peak.

State health of­fi­cials flag a warn­ing-level county when it tabs two or more “risk in­di­ca­tors.” For sub­ur­ban Cook, that’s be­cause it logged new cases at a rate of 112 per 100,000 res­i­dents over the last week — more than dou­ble the state tar­get of 50 cases — and it saw more than a 20% in­crease in COVID-19 deaths, 25 com­pared to 15 the week prior.

Preck­win­kle al­ready tried to crack down on sub­ur­ban in­creases ear­lier this month by lim­it­ing restau­rant party sizes and re­strict­ing bars to out­door ser­vice.

“We need peo­ple to fol­low the cur­rent guid­ance. If the num­bers stay ‘or­ange’ [warn­ing-level] or con­tinue to worsen, we may need to im­ple­ment ad­di­tional re­stric­tions, and we re­ally don’t want to go there,” Cook County Se­nior Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer Dr. Rachel Ru­bin said.

The warn­ing level doesn’t ap­ply to Chicago, which re­ported 95 cases per 100,000 res­i­dents but hasn’t yet been sad­dled by other coro­n­avirus risk in­di­ca­tors.

Will County is still at a warn­ing level af­ter

Gov. J.B. Pritzker banned in­door din­ing this week there and in Kanka­kee County, where the re­gional test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate is up to 8.4%. Kanka­kee is not con­sid­ered to be at a warn­ing level, though.

The other warn­ing-level coun­ties span the state, mostly clus­tered in the western and south­ern por­tions of Illi­nois: Bureau, Car­roll, Cass, Clin­ton, Cum­ber­land, Eff­in­g­ham, Fayette, Greene, Grundy, Hen­der­son, Henry, Jasper, Jer­sey, Jo Daviess, John­son, Madison, Mon­roe, Mor­gan, Perry, Pike, Ran­dolph, Sang­a­mon, Shelby, St. Clair, Union, War­ren, White and Wil­liamson.

Health of­fi­cials have blamed the state’s vi­ral re­bound on wed­dings, travel, bars while “gen­eral trans­mis­sion of the virus in the com­mu­nity is also in­creas­ing.”

“In some coun­ties, lo­cal law en­force­ment and states’ at­tor­neys are not en­forc­ing im­por­tant mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures like so­cial dis­tanc­ing and the wear­ing of face cov­er­ings,” the state health depart­ment said in a state­ment.

More than 50,000 peo­ple have tested pos­i­tive statewide so far in August, com­pared to about 59,000 over the pre­vi­ous two months com­bined.

The lat­est cases were con­firmed among 48,383 tests, keep­ing the state’s test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate over the last week at 4.1%.

With Illi­nois’ sec­ond wave largely be­ing traced to young peo­ple, ex­perts have warned it’ll lead to in­creased hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and a spike in deaths.

Hospi­tals were treat­ing the state’s high­est num­ber of in­ten­sive-care coro­n­avirus pa­tients in two months ear­lier this week, but num­bers dipped slightly as of Thurs­day night, when 1,546 were hos­pi­tal­ized with 352 in ICUs and 132 on ven­ti­la­tors.

Ru­bin said young peo­ple with mild symp­toms are still driv­ing Cook County’s in­crease and that its hospi­tals have not yet seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in ad­mis­sions, which are only slightly higher now com­pared to the same time last year.

“It doesn’t mean that won’t hap­pen in the fu­ture,” Ru­bin said.

Of­fi­cials on Fri­day an­nounced the virus has killed an­other 20 res­i­dents, rais­ing the state’s death toll since March to 7,997.

At least 229,483 peo­ple have con­tracted the virus in Illi­nois among more than 3.9 mil­lion who have been tested.

An ad­di­tional 209 deaths and 1,702 in­fec­tions are con­sid­ered to have been prob­a­ble but untested cases of the res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease.

WASHINGTON — Stand­ing on the steps of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. fa­mously laid out a vi­sion for har­mony be­tween white and Black peo­ple 57 years ago, his son is­sued a sober­ing re­minder about the per­sis­tence of po­lice bru­tal­ity and racist vi­o­lence tar­get­ing Black Amer­i­cans.

“We must never for­get the Amer­i­can night­mare of racist vi­o­lence ex­em­pli­fied when Em­mett Till was mur­dered on this day in 1955, and the criminal jus­tice sys­tem failed to con­vict his killers,” said Martin Luther King III, speak­ing to thou­sands who gath­ered Fri­day to com­mem­o­rate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Free­dom.

“Sixty-five years later (af­ter Till’s mur­der), we still strug­gle for jus­tice — de­mil­i­ta­riz­ing the po­lice, dis­man­tling mass in­car­cer­a­tion, and declar­ing as de­ter­mi­nately as we can that Black lives mat­ter,” King said.

Even in the midst of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, many felt com­pelled to join civil rights ad­vo­cates in Washington to high­light a scourge of po­lice and vig­i­lante vi­o­lence that gave way to what many feel is an over­due reck­on­ing on racial in­jus­tice. Some stood in swel­ter­ing tem­per­a­tures in lines that stretched for several blocks, as or­ga­niz­ers took tem­per­a­tures as part of coro­n­avirus pro­to­cols. Or­ga­niz­ers re­minded at­ten­dees to prac­tice so­cial dis­tanc­ing and wear masks through­out the pro­gram, although dis­tanc­ing was hardly main­tained as the gath­er­ing grew in size.

They gath­ered fol­low­ing an­other shoot­ing by a white po­lice of­fi­cer of a Black man — this time, 29-year-old Ja­cob Blake in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, last Sun­day — spark­ing demon­stra­tions and vi­o­lence that left two dead. As peace­ful protests turned to ar­son and theft, naysay­ers of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment is­sued calls for “law and or­der.”

The Rev. Al Sharp­ton, whose civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Na­tional Ac­tion Net­work, planned Fri­day’s com­mem­o­ra­tion, had a mes­sage for naysay­ers.

“Some say to me, ‘Rev. Al, y’all ought to de­nounce those that get vi­o­lent, those that are loot­ing,’” Sharp­ton said. “All of the fam­i­lies (of vic­tims of po­lice and vig­i­lante vi­o­lence) have de­nounced loot­ing. What we haven’t heard is you de­nounce shoot­ing.”

Sharp­ton asked, “We will speak against the loot­ing, but when will you speak against wrong po­lice shoot­ing?”

“There are two sys­tems of jus­tice in the United States,” said Ja­cob Blake, the fa­ther of the man whose shoot­ing by po­lice in Kenosha left him par­a­lyzed from the waist down. “There’s a white sys­tem and a black sys­tem -- the black sys­tem ain’t do­ing so well.”

“No jus­tice, no peace!” he pro­claimed.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle at­tends a press con­fer­ence last month.

JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP

Ja­cob Blake’s fa­ther, also named Ja­cob Blake, raises his fist in the air while speak­ing Fri­day at the March on Washington at the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial.

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