Most of Illinois' 11 healthcare regions are seeing increases in coronavirus metrics as the state reaches what Gov. J.B. Pritzker called "a danger point."
Speaking from a county now at a "warning level," Pritzker said "things are not heading in the right direction."
"We do not want the state or any region in the state moving backward so I'm imploring people to follow the guidelines," he said. "We're at a danger point, everybody. pay attention. now is the time to wear your mask properly."
Pritzker's first remarks came during a speech in Peoria County, one of four Illinois counties now at a "warning level" for coronavirus risks. He spoke again Thursday afternoon in LaSalle County, which also reached a "warning level."
"I'll be frank: we need to see some change here in the Peoria area when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic," Pritzker said, adding that restrictions could be increased in the area if numbers don't drop. "As much as I'd like to, this virus isn't something that we can wish away. So we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people that we love."
Illinois reported more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, the highest daily total the state has reported so far this month.
With 1,772 new cases in the last 24 hours, the state's total number of cases since the pandemic began rose to 176,896, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. An 18 additional deaths also lift the total number of fatalities to 7,478.
With more than 41,000 tests in the last 24 hours, that puts the state's seven-day rolling positivity rate at 3.8%. In Region 2, which includes Peoria, the rate increases to 4.3% as hospital admissions have also steadily increased.
"I'll remind every that the health metrics that we set to return to tougher mitigations is seven out of 10 days of increasing positivity rate plus a sustained seven-day increase in hospital admissions," Pritzker said. "So if this region has four more days of people getting sicker and needing a hospital bed, that means bars will close again and a possible reduction in service at restaurants and smaller capacity limits on other activities."
But it's not just Peoria and LaSalle counties. According to Pritzker, most of Illinois' 11 healthcare regions "are inching up on several metrics."
"Peoria is one of just four counties out of 102 that is now on the warning level by the state Department of Public Health because you have an increasing level of emergency department visits related to COVID-19 and increasing numbers of new cases," Pritzker said. "Much of the increase in cases has been tied to the 29 and under population, large social gatherings and also household spread from family member to family member."
Peoria and LaSalle reached "warning level" status along with Adams and Randolph counties late last week, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The concerning numbers coming out of those areas were due in large part to "outbreaks associated with business and risky behavior," health officials said.
In Peoria County, increases were traced to people under the age of 29, large Fourth of July parties and people traveling to Florida, Iowa, Texas and Wisconsin.
In LaSalle County, large family and social gatherings, increases in younger populations and young people visiting bars and attending large social events without masks were blamed.
Pritzker's Thursday addresses come one day after he again warned a downstate region that it, too, was particularly close to seeing added restrictions.
That region is Region 4, the Metro East region downstate that includes Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties and borders St. Louis, Missouri.
"Last week, I mentioned that while we were seeing a concerning rolling 7-day average positivity rate of 7.1% in the Metro East, the rest of our 11 regions all fell below 5%," Pritzker said, referring to his coronavirus briefing the previous Wednesday.
"As of Tuesday’s data update, the Metro East was hitting a 7.8% rate, and with the Metro East included, we now have six regions with a positivity rate above 5%," he continued.
Pritzker also announced Wednesday a change in guidance for Illinois sports, forcing season changes at several schools.