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What it Will Take for the New Coronavirus Restrictions to Be Reversed in Chicago, Illinois Regions

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Chicago and several surrounding suburbs are now under heightened restrictions as positivity rates rise during the coronavirus pandemic, but what needs to happen for those added restrictions to be lifted?

In Chicago, the new restrictions will be in place for at least two weeks.

During that time, the city would need to see its hospitalizations, case rates and deaths stabilize or decrease for at least 14 days.

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"So it literally is like when you can flatten this curve, it doesn't even have to be on the way down," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "But it needs to be stable for a 14-day period. We would be in this space to be able to reverse that."

Similarly, for the city to return to a "green zone," also known as "cautious progress," the positivity rate would need to drop back below 5%.

"That's where we feel comfortable," Arwady said.

But, should the metrics continue on their current trend, restrictions could soon be heightened even more.

Already, Chicago's mayor has warned that some Phase Three restrictions could be brought back.

Currently, the city estimates its positivity rate at 6.7%, as of Oct. 16. The state, however, shows data through Oct. 19, estimating that number at 7%.

If the positivity rate for the city, which is considered Region 11 under state guidelines, reaches 8% or higher for three consecutive days, that will trigger additional restrictions from Illinois, including the suspension of indoor dining.

On Friday, Chicago suspended indoor bar service and began a curfew for all non-essential businesses.

Chicago's top doctor said she did not want to wait until the state's 8% positivity threshold to make such changes.

"We've been in close conversation with the state, as you heard, we do have the lowest positivity still of any region in the state. But a 7% positivity is nothing to brag about," Arwady said. "And we did not feel that it was appropriate to wait when we are seeing numbers increasing the way that they are increasing. So we're putting these restrictions in. Again, I'm hoping we don't need to, you know, put those further things in. But if we continue to see those increases, absolutely, we would do that."

As of Thursday, Chicago was averaging 645 new cases per day.

"But that's a seven-day rolling average," Arwady said. "And we've already had multiple days with 800 or even 900 cases coming in. And the numbers are still going up."

Just one week ago, the city was at 418 cases per day. That marks an increase of 54% in a single week.

The rise in cases also comes with a "worrying increase" in hospitalizations, officials said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions during a Thursday briefing, suspending indoor bar service just weeks after reopening such establishments as colder weather begins to limit outdoor options.

According to city data, hospitalizations for non-ICU COVID patients and suspected cases were up 45% since Sept. 22. At that time, the city was averaging 249 people being hospitalized for coronavirus.

As of Monday, that number had climbed to 314 cases. On Thursday, the average was up to 360 cases in hospitals.

"Our most recent day is at 460," Arwady said. "We are hearing across Chicago, we're hearing from our hospitals that they're starting their COVID teams back up again."

Meanwhile, four Illinois regions are under heightened mitigations, including two regions in the Chicago area.

Region 7, comprised of Will and Kankakee counties, and Region 8, made up of DuPage and Kane counties, will now see all indoor dining and bar service suspended, effective Friday.

Region 7 had already been under the enhanced mitigation rules earlier this year, but will now go back to those policies for at least the next two weeks, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

Region 1 in northwestern Illinois and Region 5, located in southeastern Illinois, are also under stricter rules.

According to state guidance, the Illinois Department of Public Health will continue to track the positivity rate in these regions for the next 14 days "to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigation should remain in place."

If the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a three-day period, the region can return to Phase 4 mitigations. If the positivity rate averages between 6.5 percent and 8 percent, the department will continue to monitor the region "to determine if additional mitigations are needed." If the positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8 percent after 14 days, more stringent mitigations may be applied, as is the case for Region 1, which will see even stronger restrictions beginning Sunday.

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