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