CHICAGO — New restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus will take effect starting Wednesday in suburban Cook County, state public health officials announced Monday. Indoor service at bars and restaurants will be forbidden, establishments must close by 11 p.m., and gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 25 people.
It marks the first time the additional mitigation measures will be applied to the Cook County suburbs. Similar restrictions are already in place in Regions 7 and 8, including DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties.
In suburban Cook County, the positivity rate and the rate of hospital admissions has been rising sharply. As of Thursday, the most recent day for which data is available from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the rounded rolling average of daily new hospital admissions of people with symptoms of COVID-19 had risen to 49 — more than doubling since the start of October.
“We are seeing test positivity across the state increase, but for Region 10, Suburban Cook County, we are also seeing a steady increase in hospitalizations for COVID-like illness,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement announcing the new restrictions. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we were concerned about overwhelming our hospitals, and we must take action now to prevent that possibility."
With Monday's announcement of new measures in suburban Cook County, Region 10, and the re-imposition of restrictions on the Metro East region, Region 4, more than half of the state's 11 COVID-19 resurgence mitigation regions will be under some form of additional resurgence mitigation.
In suburban Cook County, the coronavirus positivity rate had risen on eight of the previous 10 days but had yet to reach the 8 percent threshold, sitting at 7.7 percent as of Thursday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the Metro East region's new mitigation measures were triggered when its positivity rate again rose above the 8 percent mark, while suburban Cook County's was set off by a combination of 10 days of rapidly rising hospitalization rates and positivity increases.
“Over the weekend, two more regions — Region 4, Metro East, as well as Region 10, suburban Cook County — triggered our metrics for additional mitigations, meaning that, starting Wednesday, six of our 11 regions will be operating under our resurgence framework,” Pritzker said.
“Much like the four areas already operating under Tier One or Tier Two of the plan — Northwestern Illinois, Southern Illinois, and Will, Kankakee, DuPage and Kane counties — Region 4 triggered our 8 percent positivity average threshold, the second time it has done so since midsummer," the governor said. "Region 10, on the other hand, is the first region in Illinois to earn additional mitigations not because of its positivity rate alone, but because its positivity rate and its COVID-related hospitalizations have both seen a sustained increase over the last 10 days.”
In order to relax the restrictions in Region 10, the positivity rate must average less than or equal to 6.5 percent for three days, the rounded average of hospital admissions must decrease over a three-day period, and the rolling averages of hospital bed availability must remain above 20 percent.
"We have seen eight days of increases in test positivity and hospital admissions," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical officer at the Cook County Department of Public Health. "The positivity rate is now 7.7%, up from 7.2% last week. Metrics like these prompted the state to mandate Tier 1 Resurgence Mitigations, similar to other counties with increased transmission."
If the positivity rate continued to rise and hospital admissions continue to increase for seven days out of a 10-day period, stricter mitigations — "Tier Two" measures such as are currently in place in the Rockford region — will be imposed, according to public health officials.
"Our mitigation measures are responsive to the data, which is showing higher rates among people under age 30," Rubin said. "Everyone is at risk, including young people. While they tend not to get as sick from COVID-19, they can still become seriously ill and spread the infection to their grandparents, co-workers, family, and friends."
Ezike said hospitals must deal with rising coronavirus admissions at the same time as seasonal influenza. She urged members of the public to get a flu shot, wash their hands, wear a mask and keep their distance.
"We are entering flu season, and our hospitals are facing both COVID-19 and flu admissions. The same things that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of flu."