IL COVID-19 Hot Spots: Schools, Restaurants Top New List

Amie Schaenzer
·5 min read

ACROSS ILLINOIS — New public health data released Friday, which is meant to shed a light on where people infected by COVID-19 in the past month may have contracted the virus, shows restaurants and bars as the top spots to potentially contract the disease, followed by schools.

Meanwhile, the top places where outbreaks have occurred since July 1 include factories or manufacturing plants — 11.2 percent of reported outbreaks. Next up, outbreaks stemming from community events account for 7.73 percent of the total outbreaks in the state, while 7.05 percent happened within churches or temples.

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The release of the new public health data came on a day that Illinois broke another record for new cases statewide and surpassed the 10,000-mark for the first time. Deaths are also on the rise. Meanwhile, average hospitalizations have more than doubled over the past month, from an average of 1,500 in October to 3,300 now — a number that Pritzker has called "unsustainable."

"We are definitely on the verge where it could go exponential," Pritzker said Friday. "If it goes exponential we would be in a world of a hurt."

Pritzker said he's prepared to up restrictions across the state. But it's too early to say, the extent of that shutdown and if it would mirror the spring stay at home order or a stepped-up version of recent tiered mitigations. But it could be coming as early as next week, he said.

“It’s the last thing I want to do but I’m ready to do it,” he said. “Because we can’t make these numbers flatten and go back down since there is no vaccine or medication. The only way that science shows us how to do that is by having less interaction. And that means cutting off people’s ability to interact in certain places.”

In an effort to better educate the public on the top spots for COVID-19 transmission, and coming off the heels of weeks when restaurants across the state have blatantly refused to stop indoor service despite the governor's mandate to do so and the Illinois State High School Association's move to ignore Pritzker's order to push basketball to the spring, the new exposure and outbreak data is meant to help residents “design their day to day” to lessen the risk of contracting the virus.

The data is culled from information provided by contact tracers investigating COVID-19 cases. When compiling outbreak information, local health departments investigate outbreaks by identifying clusters from individual case investigations. This information is based on reported locations visited during patients' 14-day exposure period. Meanwhile, the exposure data includes locations provided by patients about where exposures may have occurred.

During his address Friday, Pritzker noted the top locations where COVID-19 cases are originating from. Public health data shows bars and restaurants are the most likely places to contract the virus followed by schools, workplaces and then hospital and clinics. In addition, more details on school exposures and outbreaks will be updated weekly, every Friday, on the IDPH website.

The newly-released school data shows 478 of 5,478 schools in the state have reported potential COVID-19 exposures in the past 30 days, and 10 schools have had outbreaks. You can find out where exposures and outbreaks are occurring within Chicago-area schools, and across Illinois, on the website.

Here is a look at the top exposure locations over the past 30 days:

  • Restaurant/bar: 3,877 or 10.7 percent

  • Schools: 3,796 or 10.5 percent

  • Workplace other than office: 3,694 or 10.3 percent

  • Hospital or clinic: 3,107 or 8.63 percent

  • Business or retail: 3,081 or 8.51 percent

  • Office setting: 2,050 or 5.7 percent

  • Private home: 1,302 or 3.62 percent

  • Household: 1,291 or 3.59 percent

  • Grocery store: 1,244 or 3.46 percent

Since the state reopened on July 1, the new data shows outbreaks stemming from the following locations:

  • Factory/manufacturer: 52 or 11.2 percent of outbreaks

  • Community event: 34 or 7.73 percent

  • Church/temple: 31 or 7.05 percent

  • College/University: 31 or 7.06

  • Correctional Facility: 27 or 6.14 percent

  • Group Home: 27 or 6.14 percent

  • Public schools: 27 or 6.14 percent

  • Workplace: 26 or 5.91 percent

  • Bar: 22 or 5 percent

  • Restaurant: 18 or 4.09 percent

  • Behavioral/Mental Health Facility: 16 or 3.64 percent

  • Daycare: 15 or 3.41 percent

The new detailed state health data or "contract tracing metrics" can be found on the IDPH website.

Meanwhile, state health officials pleaded again with the public to take extra precautions to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19. And cases will likely continue to spike, they also urged those who test positive for the virus to be sure to provide an accurate phone number when taking a COVID-19 test. This will ensure contact tracers will be able to reach them and get and provide information on how to keep them, and others, safe from further spread.

But as we head into the winter holidays in the coming weeks, state health officials say the outlook is grim.

"We prepared in every way for a fall surge but the idea of it moving this quickly, it’s frightening," Pritzker said. "I can’t tell you what next week or the week after will look like."


This article originally appeared on the Across Illinois Patch