Lake County flagged at COVID-19 warning level as 2,818 more test positive statewide

Lake County flagged at COVID-19 warning level as 2,818 more test positive statewide

A technician processes nasopharyngeal swab samples positive for COVID-19 at Simple Laboratories in Harwood Heights in April. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

In counties covering more than a quarter of the state, health officials say they’ve “observed businesses blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings.”

Illinois’ coronavirus testing positivity rate inched upward for a third consecutive day Friday as public health officials announced another hefty caseload of 2,818 more people testing positive for COVID-19.

They were diagnosed among 71,599 tests submitted, raising the statewide average positivity rate over the last week to 3.8%. That number indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading — and that’s as high as it’s been in almost a month.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned this week that the state’s improvement from a midsummer resurgence has “cooled down.”

And while over the last few months, the state’s COVID-19 problem areas have popped up well beyond the Chicago area — mostly in central Illinois and downstate — the Democratic governor’s health team singled out north suburban Lake County for being among 26 counties considered to be at a coronavirus “warning level.”

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It’s not Lake County’s first appearance on the warning-level list, after the state flagged them for a week in early September. This time around, Lake County has tripped two “risk indicators” set by the state: a case rate of 90 per 100,000 residents (compared to the target of 50), and an increase in emergency room visits for COVID-like illness.

Last month, more than a dozen cases were tied to adult volleyball leagues in Gages Lake.

“As the weather turns cooler, we need everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands often, and watch their distance,” Lake County Health Department spokeswoman Emily Young said in an email. “Reconsider your plans if they include risky activities and gatherings.”

Warning-level counties are marked orange on this map.Illinois Department of Public Health
Warning-level counties are marked orange on this map.

The 25 other warning-level counties mostly are clustered downstate: Case, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Effingham, Fayette, Henderson, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lee, Mason, Massac, Pulaski, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Union, Vermilion, Whiteside, Winnebago and Warren.

They’ve suffered outbreaks tied to weddings, funerals, college parties and other large events packed with young people. State health officials say they’ve “observed businesses blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings.”

On a regional basis, one that has finally seen improvement is the downstate Metro East area near St. Louis, which had faced a ban on indoor dining and other COVID-19 mitigations for almost two months due to soaring positivity rates. Pritzker’s office announced those mitigations are being lifted with Metro East now down to 5.8% positivity.

But still facing restrictions is the northwest corner of the state that includes Rockford, which is up to 8.8%, well over the state’s threshold of 8%. .

Chicago is at 4.2% positivity and suburban Cook County at 5%.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday also announced 35 more deaths have been attributed to the virus, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 8,945.

With the state averaging 29 coronavirus deaths per day over the last week, the toll is on pace to surpass 9,000 this weekend.

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More than half the fatalities — 4,792 — have resulted from the 30,894 cases that so far have been traced to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Almost 6.2 million tests have been administered, with 313,518 people confirmed to carry the virus since March. More than 3,000 additional infections and 246 deaths are considered to have been probable COVID-19 cases, though those people were never tested.

Overall, the survival rate is 96%.

As of Thursday night, 1,812 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 395 receiving intensive care and 153 on ventilators.

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