Coronavirus ‘rages on’ in Illinois, prompting Pritzker to warn locals to take action — or the state ‘will be forced to step in’

The Metro East and southern Illinois regions are still hovering close to the 8% positivity rate that would trigger a state intervention. “Without local action, even more stringent regulations restricting public interaction, or in the extreme, another stay-at-home order might be in your future,” Pritzker said.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens during a news conference in Little Village last week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens during a news conference in Little Village last week.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Health officials on Wednesday announced another 1,759 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois, marking the third-highest daily caseload in two months and the 15th straight day the state has reported 1,000 or more cases.

Over the last four weeks, Illinois has had 23 days with four-digit caseloads — following a full month without hitting that level.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 30 more people suffering from COVID-19 have died, just the second time the state has tallied 30 or more deaths in almost a month.

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Experts predict a spike in deaths during the next few weeks, the grim result of Illinois’ steady increase in cases since late June and an uptick in hospitalizations over the last two weeks.

“Unfortunately, the virus rages on,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a COVID-19 briefing.

And the only way it’ll be contained, according to the Democratic governor, is if local governments step up enforcement of masking and social distancing guidelines — and residents take them seriously.

“Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before the state of Illinois will be forced to step in on a regional basis and impose resurgence mitigations, like closing bars, indoor dining, and more, to reduce the spread of the virus,” Pritzker said.

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The state has averaged more than 1,500 new coronavirus cases per day over the last two weeks. That’s double what the state was averaging this time last month.

Illinois’ latest cases were confirmed among 46,668 tests, keeping the state’s testing positivity rate over the last week at 3.9%.

Regional testing positivity rates have slightly improved over the last week. Just two of the state’s 11 medical regions designated by Pritzker’s office saw a full week or more of increases. Seven regions were hitting that threshold last weekend.

But those rates are still up across the board. A month ago, 10 regions were below 5%, Pritzker said. Five regions were below that benchmark two weeks ago. Now it’s down to four.

Norridge Police Department Officer Steven Deutscher gets his blood drawn for a coronavirus antibody test in Harwood Heights on May 1.

Norridge Police Department Officer Steven Deutscher gets his blood drawn for a coronavirus antibody test in Harwood Heights on May 1.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

The Metro East and southern Illinois regions are still hovering close to the 8% positivity rate that would trigger a state intervention that could include business shutdowns. Metro East was at 7.1% and southern Illinois at 7.2%.

“Without local action, even more stringent regulations restricting public interaction, or in the extreme, another stay-at-home order might be in your future,” Pritzker said.

As of Wednesday, Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.9% and suburban Cook County’s at 5.7%.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike preached “personal accountability” and “community accountability” while bemoaning large gatherings of young people, including the “White Trash Bash” held Saturday on the Illinois River in East Peoria.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a March 19 news briefing.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a March 19 news briefing.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

“You’re tired of hearing it, I’m tired of talking about it — believe me, I want this over as much as everyone else — but this virus is not tired,” Ezike said. “In fact, it’s trying to gain momentum. ... Let’s do what’s right, and protect ourselves and protect others.”

Since March, a total of 186,471 people have tested positive for the virus among nearly 2.9 million who have been tested.

As of Tuesday night, 1,552 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Illinois hospitals, with 368 in intensive care units and 129 on ventilators.

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