Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that the coronavirus testing positivity rate has risen in all 11 of the state's health care regions, warning that the state is moving in a "concerning direction."
Health officials on Wednesday reported 2,862 new coronavirus cases and 49 additional deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing totals to 327,605 cases and 9,074 deaths statewide since the pandemic began.
As of Wednesday, the statewide positivity rate in testing was up to 4.6%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pritzker said that marked an increase of more than a full percentage point in the last week alone. He also noted that in the same time period, hospital admissions for COVID-like symptoms have also increased.
Both indicators are metrics the state uses in determining each region's response to the pandemic - if a region sees a sustained increase in its rolling average positivity rate as well as a 7-day increase in hospital admissions or a reduction in hospital capacity, or simply three days averaging higher than an 8% positivity rate, the region automatically triggers new restrictions like closing of indoor bars and restaurants, limits on group sizes and more.
"To date, Illinois has had relative success in keeping this virus at bay, and we’re still doing better than many of our neighbors, but we can’t let up – and these numbers are indicating a concerning direction," Pritzker said Wednesday.
"I want to reiterate the call that IDPH and I have repeatedly made to local health departments and local officials: pay close attention to your community and have the courage to take action when the local data indicate a problem," he added. "I have one simple message for everyone in areas with rising positivity: Mask Up! Just do that one simple thing, and it will make a tremendous difference in keeping infections down."
Pritzker noted that Region 5, encompassing parts of southern Illinois, has surpassed an 8% positivity rate, up from 5.8% on Sept. 30. As of Wednesday, Pritzker said the region's rolling average was at 7.7% but that if it surpassed 8% again and stayed there, it would face stricter mitigations.
One region is currently under the stricter mitigations: Region 1, home top Rockford, Dixon and Galena, which saw the restrictions tighten on Oct. 3 after surpassing the 8% threshold. Pritzker said Wednesday that the positivity rate has continued to climb and sits at 10.1%, though hospital admissions have stabilized in the area.
Regions 4 and 7 had previously seen tighter restrictions automatically triggered, but those mitigations were removed after the regions' metrics fell below the state's threshold.
Pritzker used those regions as an example to encourage the rest of the state.
"To the residents of Region 1: We’re rooting for you – each of you have a direct role in making a change to bring your numbers down. Region 4 and Region 7 have demonstrated that it is possible to bring down that positivity rate with the tools we know to work: wear a mask, keep some physical distance, and encourage those who flout public health guidance to act with consideration for the whole community," he said.