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Public health official says Cook County Ďwill not hesitateí to impose further COVID-19 restrictions if suburban case numbers donít improve

Wednesday, April 07, 2021
Chicago Tribune
by Alice Yin Jenny Whidden Dan Petrella

A Cook County public health leader said Wednesday there won‚€™t be a return to past COVID-19 mitigations just yet in the suburbs, but an¬ ongoing third wave¬ of the virus warrants enough alarm to keep the possibility on the table.

Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health that guides COVID-19 response in most of suburban Cook, said a future decision to clamp down on limits for gatherings and businesses depends on whether the current trends, which have her ‚€úextremely concerned,‚€Ě continue.

‚€úWe are considering tightening up the required mitigations again if the trend continues, but we‚€™re not taking such actions now. Not yet,‚€Ě Rubin said on a call with reporters. ‚€úBut if the trend continues in the wrong direction, we will not hesitate to tighten restrictions on gatherings, indoor or outdoors.‚€Ě

Her warning follows a similar message she¬ delivered over the weekend¬ in which she said suburban Cook County might again see an indoor dining ban, or the gathering limit curtailed from the current cap at 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. On Wednesday, she said future restrictions would more likely look like ‚€úmini steps‚€Ě such as gradually dialing back capacity until possibly reaching the previous Tier 1 stage, which limited indoor dining to 25 people total or 25% capacity, among other requirements.

Rubin said suburban Cook County has not yet met the state‚€™s criteria for moving backward, and open intensive care unit beds remain above the 20% threshold of concern, but the region is ‚€úinching in that direction‚€Ě regarding other factors.

Dr. Rachel Rubin appears at her office at the Cook County Department of Public Health in Forest Park on Nov. 2, 2020. Rubin is one of two top leaders at the county public health department.
Dr. Rachel Rubin appears at her office at the Cook County Department of Public Health in Forest Park on Nov. 2, 2020. Rubin is one of two top leaders at the county public health department.¬ (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

The latest tally of daily coronavirus cases and the statewide positivity rate for tests in Illinois rose to levels not seen since late January, public health officials reported Tuesday.

Across the state, officials reported¬ 3,790 new confirmed and probable cases¬ of COVID-19, the highest count since 4,156 cases were reported Jan. 29. Wednesday‚€™s cases resulted from a batch of 80,628 tests.

The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests is 4.1% as of Tuesday, the highest since a rate of 4.3% was reported the week ending Jan. 28.

In the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has expressed reluctance to shut down more businesses or events due to the economic toll such a move would cause, but also has said she would do so if COVID-19 metrics worsen. Any decision the county makes will be in ‚€úfairly close lockstep‚€Ě with Chicago, Rubin said Wednesday.

Unlike in Chicago, where rising cases have been mostly concentrated on the North Side and pockets of the Northwest Side, Cook County has not seen geographic hot spots, Rubin said. The seven towns with the highest jump in cases over the past two weeks ‚€Ē all more than 200% ‚€Ē are Glencoe, Norridge, Riverside, Robbins, Harvey, Lynwood and Berkeley, according to this week‚€™s figures.

But there are spikes among younger age groups: The weekly average of positivity rates shows the highest percentages among those in their 20s, at about 7.6%, followed by the 30s at about 7% and 40s at 6.25%, compared with the 5.7% rate overall. The seven-day average of new cases is 456.

Meanwhile, an additional¬ 139,724 doses of coronavirus vaccine¬ were administered Tuesday, bringing the statewide total of vaccinations to 6,552,982. An average of 107,302 vaccinations were administered daily over the last seven days, the state said.

The number of residents who have been fully vaccinated ‚€Ē receiving both of the required shots, or Johnson & Johnson‚€™s single shot ‚€Ē reached 2,494,651, or 19.58% of the total population.

As of Wednesday, 41.42% of residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

As of Tuesday night, 1,710 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 353 patients in intensive care units and 142 patients on ventilators. The seven-day average of total hospitalizations is 1,530, the highest since an average of 1,539 was recorded Feb. 23.

Officials also reported 28 additional fatalities, bringing the statewide death toll to 21,423. The total number of known infections in Illinois since the start of the pandemic is 1,265,457.

‚€úYounger folks are also, as we know, the ones that are more likely to be out and about and maybe being a little bit less observant of the guidance,‚€Ě Rubin said. ‚€úSo they are driving this pandemic right now. However it doesn‚€™t mean that other groupings, other than our older seniors, are not also seeing rises because younger people will transmit to their older family or friends.‚€Ě

Statewide, people in their late teens and 20s are driving the surge in cases, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

In the most recent week, cases are up nearly 25% among people ages 18 to 24, and over the past four weeks, cases among the 18 to 24 and 25 to 29 age groups have roughly doubled, Arnold said.

Rubin said her take-home message was to gather outside with masking and social distancing in place, and to avoid indoor dining or even crowded outdoor patios.

‚€úIf you go out, wear your mask, be outside and enjoy the weather as opposed to going into a restaurant,‚€Ě Rubin said. ‚€úGet carryout, have a picnic outside, do those things to make yourself safe.‚€Ě



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