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DuPage County gets coronavirus ‘warning’ as Illinois logs 2,145 new cases: ‘We need everyone to take this seriously’

Thirty of the state’s 102 counties have been slapped with the “warning level” label for a series of outbreaks tied to risky behavior at college parties, weddings and bars and more.

A U.S. Air Force medical technician tests civilians for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site in Bloomington, Illinois, in March.
A U.S. Air Force medical technician tests civilians for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing site in Bloomington, Illinois, in March.
Provided by U.S. Air National Guard

A broad swath of Chicago’s western suburbs hit a COVID-19 warning level Friday as public health officials announced 2,145 more people have tested positive for the deadly virus statewide.

The latest daily caseload was slightly above Illinois’ two-week average of about 2,022 new cases per day, and they were confirmed among 56,661 tests to raise the state’s rolling testing positivity rate to 3.9%.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced the virus killed 32 more people, the most in a single day since the beginning of the month. The state has averaged about 20 COVID-19 deaths per day over the last two weeks.

It was an increase in COVID-19 deaths that helped land DuPage County on the state’s updated list of counties considered to be at a viral “warning level.” Six deaths were reported in the west suburban county last week, up from four the previous week.

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The state flags counties if they check off two “risk indicators.” DuPage is also seeing a case rate of 89 per 100,000 residents, well above the target of about 50.

“These increases tell us too many people are not following public health guidelines,” said Karen Ayala, executive director of the DuPage County Health Department. “We need everyone to take this seriously. To slow the spread of COVID-19 everybody needs to wear a mask over your nose and mouth, watch your distance and wash your hands often.”

Karen Ayala, Executive Director of DuPage County Health Department, in March.
Karen Ayala, Executive Director of DuPage County Health Department, along with elected and health officials give their daily update on the coronavirus situation in March.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Officials pointed to a series of issues in the 29 other warning level counties, including outbreaks traced to college parties, weddings and bars and clubs — not to mention an increase in “general transmission of the virus in the community.”

“Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing and are not providing information on close contacts or answering the phone,” according to a statement from the state health department. “Individuals are also waiting to get tested believing their symptoms are allergies or some other cause.”

Illinois counties at a coronavirus “warning level” are marked orange in this graphic.
Illinois counties at a coronavirus “warning level” are marked orange in this graphic.
Illinois Department of Public Health

Those counties currently flagged by the state span the Illinois map, mostly outside the Chicago area: Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, DeKalb, Effingham, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jackson, Jasper, Jersey, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Morgan, Pulaski, Schuyler, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington and Williamson.

Suburban Cook and Lake counties each were previously on the warning list but have since worked their ways off.

Testing positivity rates, which indicate how fast the virus is spreading, have remained relatively stable in the Chicago area over the last week. Chicago is at 5.1% and suburban Cook is at 6%, while the the Lake-McHenry county region is at 6.5% and Will-Kankakee at 7.5%. DuPage and Kane counties are at 5.4%.

More than 4.6 million COVID-19 tests have been administered in Illinois since March — 257,788 have tested positive and 8,273 of those have died. An additional 2,095 infections are considered to have been “probable” but untested cases of the virus, including 232 deaths.

The recovery rate in Illinois is 96%, with most people who contract the virus suffering mild or even no symptoms.

But COVID-19 has ravaged older, more vulnerable populations. The state’s latest nursing home figures show 28,189 cases have been tied to those long-term care facilities, leading to 4,617 deaths.

“There may be some disagreements out there but there are things that we can all agree on,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday. “We all want our kids in school. We all want our restaurants open — we all want all of our businesses open — and we can do that by wearing a mask.”

As of Thursday night, 1,619 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 359 in intensive care units and 155 on ventilators.