CHICAGO (CBS) — Bars and restaurants in Will and Kankakee counties will be able to resume serving customers indoors at 5 p.m. on Friday, as Gov. JB Pritzker lifts tougher COVID-19 mitigations that were imposed on that region of Illinois last month, due to rising virus cases.
Meantime, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,120 new confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, including 20 additional deaths.
With 61,918 new tests also reported on Friday, the one-day positivity rate in Illinois is 3.4%. The seven-day average positivity rate statewide stands at 3.6%, down from 4.5% early this month.
On Wednesday, the governor said, over last two weeks, nearly every region has seen stable and declining rates, including Will and Kankakee counties (Region 7) and the Metro East area (Region 4).
Late last month, the state ordered increased restrictions in Region 7, after its seven-day average positivity rate had surpassed 8% for three days in a row.
Region 7’s average positivity rate has now fallen below 6.5% for three days in a row, standing at 5.6% on Friday, prompting Pritzker to return Will and Kankakee counties to Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan.
Since Aug. 26, bars and restaurants in Will and Kankakee have been ordered not to serve customers indoors. Outdoor service at bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m., and reservations will be required. In addition, public gatherings are limited to the lesser of 25 people or 25% of normal room capacity. Party buses also will not be allowed to operate, and gaming facilities and casinos must close by 11 p.m.
Those added restrictions will be lifted at 5 p.m. Friday, according to the governor’s office. That means indoor dining and bar service can resume, and larger public gatherings will be allowed.
“Today, Region 7 – Will and Kankakee Counties – will return to the standard Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan because residents chose to be all in for each other, for their small businesses, for their bars and restaurants, for their kids, for their neighbors,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Let that be a testament to the power of a community that embraces doctor-recommended mitigations proven to reduce risk and slow the spread. We can’t outrun this virus, but with the tools we know to work – masks, distancing, handwashing, and respect for public health and each other – we can beat it back enough to keep our businesses open and our neighborhoods safer all at once. Don’t let up now, Region 7 – let’s keep this success going.”
Meantime, the Metro East region (Region 4) remains under stricter rules, as its positivity rate has been above 8% since early August, although its rate has been slowly and steadily declining since Sept. 7, when it hit 10.1%. It now stands at 8%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. If Region 4 gets its average positivity rate under 6.5% for three days in a row, the tougher rules there will be lifted as well.
As of Friday, 24 counties were considered at “warning level,” meaning they have surpassed two or more designated risk factors for the pandemic, such as having more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people; a 20% or larger weekly increase in deaths for two weeks; a 7-day positivity rate of more than 8%; a 20% or larger weekly increase in emergency department visits or hospital admissions for two weeks; or ICU bed availability of less than 20%.
The counties at warning level as of Friday include: Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeWitt, Edwards, Effingham, Greene, Jasper, Jo Daviess, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Rock Island, St. Clair, Shelby, Washington, Wayne, Williamson, Wabash, and Union.
IDPH said, while the reasons for the increases in each county vary, but some common factors for recent increases in cases include university and college parties, college sports teams, large gatherings and events, bars and clubs, weddings and funerals, long-term care facilities, correctional centers, manufacturing plants, schools, and cases among the community at large.
Public health officials said they are still seeing some people failing to observe social distancing, gathering in large groups, or not wearing masks. In some counties, local police and prosecutors are not enforcing mitigation measures like social distancing and the statewide mask mandate. IDPH also noted some people are refusing to participate in contact tracing efforts when officials reach out to those who have tested positive for the virus, or those they have been in close contact with.