WAUKEGAN, IL — New regional COVID-19 mitigations were lifted on one area of Illinois this week and imposed on another, as rising coronavirus positivity rates in neighboring regions risk triggering additional restrictions.
In the Lake-McHenry County region, Region 9, the coronavirus positivity rate rose by nearly a full percentage point in the week ending Tuesday, the most recent data available from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The positivity rate of 5.8 percent was the highest in the past three weeks and among the highest in the state.
During that same period, daily new hospitalizations of patients with “COVID-like illnesses,” or CLI, more than doubled, rising from a rounded rolling average of four people a day on Sept. 14 to nine people a day on Oct. 6.
In Lake County, increases in the percentage of emergency department visits of patients with coronavirus symptoms and the per capita number of new cases detected led state public health officials to declare the state at warning level — “orange” on the county-level risk metrics map.
The target for new cases per 100,000 people is less than 50, but Lake County has 90 — and the percentage of emergency room visits consisting of people with CLI increased to 4.3 percent. In McHenry County, which is not at a warning level, there were 63 new cases per 100,000 people and only 1.8 percent of ER visits were for CLI.
Only one region is currently subject to increased restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus as part of the 11-region Restore Illinois COVID-19 resurgence plan, as of Friday. It is the third region where public health officials have tightened limits on gatherings and businesses due to high positivity rates.
In Region 1, the Rockford emergency medical services region, the seven-day rolling average coronavirus positivity rate has remained above 8 percent for more than two weeks. Three days above the threshold leads to mandatory mitigation measures. Restrictions on indoor service at bars and restaurants will be in effect in the nine-county region until its rate stays below 6.5 percent for three consecutive days.
That happened this week in Region 4, where the “tier 2” restrictions on businesses and gatherings were first imposed on Aug. 18. The Metro East region hit a high of 10.5 percent positivity in late August before coming down to 5.8 by Friday, when public health officials announced the restrictions had been lifted. Mitigations were placed on Region 7, Will and Kankakee counties, from Aug. 27 and lifted Sept. 18.
The region with the highest coronavirus positivity rate outside of the Rockford region is Region 5 in Southern Illinois. The Marion emergency medical services region saw its positivity rate spike from 5.6 percent to 7 percent this week. If the rolling average continues to rise at that rate, the region could be on pace for additional restrictions as soon as next week.
The next highest rate was in Region 6 excluding Champaign County. Public health officials have begun calculating the region’s positivity