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It’s February, but Illinois’ COVID-19 metrics making it look more like October

The number of new infections is the lowest in nearly four months, and the number of deaths the lowest in nearly three months. The preliminary seven-day statewide COVID-19 positivity rate hovered at 3.9% for the second day in a row, the lowest since early October.

A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s teaches a person how to administer a COVID-19 mouth swab test in in Little Village last October.
A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s teaches a person how to administer a COVID-19 mouth swab test in the parking lot of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village in October.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Illinois public health officials on Monday reported the state’s lowest daily caseload and death tallies since the fall surge hit.

The improving metrics came as restaurants and bars that serve food in suburban Cook County were poised to be able to increase the number of customers they can seat at indoor tables.

The number of new infections is the lowest in nearly four months, and the number of deaths the lowest in nearly three months.

The preliminary seven-day statewide COVID-19 positivity rate hovered at 3.9% for the second day in a row, the lowest since early October.

State public health officials Monday reported 2,312 new confirmed, and probable, cases of COVID-19 as well as 16 deaths.

That figure is the lowest daily case count since the state saw 1,617 new and probable cases on Oct. 6 and the lowest daily death toll since Nov. 9, when the state reported 14 deaths.

As of Sunday night, 2,387 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of that number, 515 patients were in intensive care units around the state and 278 patients with the virus were on ventilators.

Improving metrics in Region 10 — the Cook County suburbs — mean restaurants and bars that serve food may start to increase the numbers of diners allowed per table as early as Tuesday.

Both Chicago and the Cook County suburbs were allowed to resume limited indoor seating at bars and restaurants on Jan. 23, moving into Tier 1 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

Tier 1 mitigations allow restaurants and bars that serve food to seat customers inside up to 25% capacity or 25 people per room, whichever is less. Bars that don’t serve food still aren’t allowed to invite patrons inside unless they partner with a restaurant to deliver, under city regulations.

Patrons eat, work and socialize at Cupitol Coffee & Eatery in Evanston in late October.
Patrons eat, work and socialize at Cupitol Coffee & Eatery in Evanston in late October.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

But under Tier 1 only four people are allowed at each table.

Moving from Tier 1 back into Phase 4 allows up to ten customers per table.

State officials announced Sunday that Chicago’s COVID-19 metrics had improved enough to re-enter Phase 4,.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said in a statement over the weekend that bars and restaurants in the city would remain at the more restricted levels, calling a rush to loosen them too quickly “irresponsible.”

A handful of customers eat in the dining room at Siam Rice, 117 N. Wells St. last March, shortly before Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order.
A handful of customers eat in the dining room at Siam Rice, 117 N. Wells St. last March, shortly before Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Meanwhile, Region 7 — which includes Will and Kankakee counties — transitioned from the tougher Tier 1 restrictions back to Phase 4 Monday.

Phase 4 doesn’t mean businesses can fully open without restrictions, but it does grant a path forward for restaurants and bars. Restaurants under Phase 4 must still ensure tables are sufficiently separated, and parties don’t exceed more than 10 people.

Phase 4 also allows for indoor meetings and social gatherings with a maximum of 50 people or 50% of room capacity. Museums will be allowed to reopen — though limited to 25% capacity. Some indoor recreation facilities, such as bowling alleys and skating rinks, can also reopen.

The transition from Tier 1 to Phase 4 means the positivity rate has remained at 6.5% for three consecutive days; staffed ICU bed availability is at 20%; and there hasn’t been a sustained increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Regions 8 (Kane and DuPage counties); 9 (McHenry and Lake counties); 10 (suburban Cook County) and 11 (Chicago ) remain in Tier 1 as of Monday.

Region 4 (Bond, Madison, St. Clair, Clinton, Washington, Monroe and Randolph counties) is in Tier 2.