Chilly dinner: Indoor dining nixed in south, west suburbs as COVID-19 numbers rise — and temperatures drop
With the state facing what Gov. J.B. Pritzker has called a “new wave” of surging coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, business restrictions will be in place across four of the state’s 11 regions by the end of the week — and other regions are flirting with a state intervention as well.
Indoor service is being taken off the menu for bars and restaurants across many of Chicago’s south and western suburbs as COVID-19 testing positivity rates shoot up statewide.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced his public health team’s latest restrictions on establishments in Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage Counties beginning Friday — and warned such “mitigations” could be on tap for even more of the metro area if the coronavirus keeps surging past levels not seen in Illinois since mid-May.
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“There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and on our public health, but we can and we will manage through this,” the Democratic governor said during the first of his rebooted daily coronavirus briefings. Pritzker had put that practice on hold since the end of May, when infection rates were falling from the initial peak of the pandemic and Illinois was entering its third reopening phase.
“We are seeing a national surge of cases that is affecting every state around us in a dramatic way, and in Illinois we are seeing the numbers go up literally all across the state,” Pritzker said.
Key among those numbers is the seven-day average testing positivity rate, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading.
The positivity rate in the Will-Kankakee region is up to 8.6%, while Kane and DuPage have soared to 9%. Tuesday marked a third consecutive day for each region over the 8% threshold set by Pritzker’s health team that triggers state mitigations.
Will and Kankakee counties were previously slapped with an indoor service ban in late August, but the region was restored within a month as the positivity rate sank as low as 5.2%.
Now, as the state faces what Pritzker has called a “new wave” of surging coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, business restrictions will be in place across four of the state’s 11 regions by the end of the week — and other regions are flirting with a state intervention as well. According to state metrics, Chicago is up to 6.7% positivity, suburban Cook is at 7.1%, and Lake and McHenry counties are up to 7.5%.
The northwest corner of the state that includes Rockford was hit with mitigations earlier this month as it has climbed to 11.8% positivity. Restrictions go into effect Thursday in the southern tip of the state, which is at 9.1% positivity.
And they arrive in the suburbs as the changing season puts a damper on outdoor dining for the already-decimated hospitality industry. High temperatures in the Chicago area are barely expected to break 50 degrees this weekend.
Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said “moving backwards in phasing without any financial support will mean devastation for restaurants in Illinois — causing many to shutter for good.”
“If our restaurants have any hope of making it through the winter, especially given potential rollbacks, they need government support, now,” Toia said, urging passage of a federal bill that calls for $120 billion in industry relief.
Pritzker said establishments in regions facing mitigation “will receive priority consideration” as the state doles out $220 million in “business interruption grants.”
“This isn’t about punishing anybody,” Pritzker said. “It’s because all the studies that have been done about bars and restaurants show that these are significant spreading locations, and we want to stop the spread. We want to slow the spread as best we can.”
The average statewide testing positivity rate climbed to 5.5% with the latest 3,714 new cases of the disease confirmed among 59,077 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That’s as high as it’s been since early June, and up from just 3.3% on Oct. 4.
Public health officials also announced the virus has claimed 41 more lives, raising the state’s death toll to 9,277. More than 350,000 people have contracted the virus among almost 6.9 million tests administered since March.
Cases have skyrocketed in Illinois and its neighboring states over the last few weeks as the Midwest has become a focal point of the United States’ latest coronavirus resurgence. As of Monday night, 2,261 Illinoisans were hospitalized with the virus, the state’s most concurrent COVID-19 patients since mid-June.
Chicago health officials added five states to the city’s emergency travel order, which now requires residents and travelers to self-quarantine for two weeks after arriving from any of 30 states or Puerto Rico, including all of Illinois’ bordering states.
But Illinois itself meets the city’s criteria to be included on the quarantine list. On average, Illinois has added about 29 cases per 100,000 residents over the last week, nearly double the threshold rate set by Lightfoot’s health team.
The city has issued warnings, but not yet any fines, to people flouting the travel quarantine order. Essential workers are exempt.