With several Illinois regions soon entering even tighter mitigations to curb the spread of coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called out state officials who he said aren't enforcing the restrictions currently in effect across the state.
Regions 5, 7 and 8, which include Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage counties in Illinois, as well as the southern part of the state, are set to enter Tier 2 mitigations Wednesday. Businesses in many of those areas have vowed to disobey the state's new rules while some officials have questioned them.
"Mitigations are only effective if they are followed," Pritzker said. "Too many local officials across the state are ignoring their local public health departments and doing nearly nothing to assist their residents in following even the most basic guidelines. Some elected leaders are allowing this continued rise in positivity to balloon out of control while taking no action. These mayors and city councils and county boards need to take some responsibility for keeping their constituents safe. I promise them: that responsibility pales in comparison to what could come when the hospitals in your area are filling up and there aren’t enough nurses or doctors to save their constituents’ lives."
Tier 2 adds further gathering size limitations and reduces table sizes for restaurants and bars to a maximum of six, among other restrictions for sports and recreational events.
"The situation has worsened considerably in certain areas of the state, with massive increases in the rates of community transmission specifically in three regions," Pritzker said.
Already all of Illinois is under increased mitigations imposed by the state on a region-by-region basis. The restrictions follow a three-tiered plan, the first of which eliminated indoor dining at restaurants, reduced gathering sizes and more.
Region 1 has been under Tier 2 mitigations since late last month.
Pritzker warned last week that the Illinois Department of Public Health is "looking at proposing further regional and statewide restrictions because the rise in cases and hospitalizations is unsustainable."
As of Monday, Region 5 was seeing an average positivity rate of 11.5%, well above the 8% threshold the state requires for heightened mitigations to be issued and nearly double the 6.5% required for mitigations to be lifted. In mid-June, Region 5 had a positivity rate of just 1.3%.
"On average, today, more than twice as many COVID-19 patients enter a hospital each day in Region 5 than in late August – the summer peak," Pritzker said.
In addition, Regions 7 and 8 have a positivity rate above 13%, with one in every seven tests in those areas coming back positive, Pritzker said.
Under the state's guidelines, if a region's positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8 percent after another 14 days, more stringent mitigations could be ordered.
Should a region reach Tier 3, elective surgeries will be suspended, gathering sizes will be restricted again, recreational spaces like gyms could be forced to close, salon and personal care services will be suspended, and nonessential retailers may be forced to shut their doors once again.
The governor has declined to give specifics on what restrictions could be ahead and though he has previously said another stay-at-home order was not on the table, on Friday, he said he can't guarantee what might happen in the coming weeks.
"I'm not looking at the broader mitigation of stay-at-home as something I would do in the coming days or week, but I can't guarantee you what it looks like two weeks from now or three weeks from now - I just don't know. None of us, frankly, expected that the entire country would be swept with an increase in COVID-19," he said.
Pritzker added Friday that he currently has no plans of shutting down outdoor dining.
In the last week alone, data showed the state's case positivity rate climbed from 8% to 11.4%. In the last month, that number has nearly tripled.
Along with the increases in cases and positivity rates, the state has also seen a continued rise in hospitalizations due to the virus. According to IDPH data, 4,409 residents are currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses. Of those patients, 857 are currently in intensive care units, and 376 are on ventilators.
"We're getting to the point where we're really concerned," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday. "We're worried that there won't be a bed enough for everyone."
As of last week, Illinois was averaging 3,400 hospitalizations due to coronavirus, well above the 1,500 the state reported at the start of October.
"If the current trajectory continues, if our hospitals continue to fill up, if more and more people continue to lose their lives to this disease, we’re going to implement further statewide mitigations – which nobody wants to do," Pritzker warned.