NORTHERN ILLINOIS — Region 1 of the state’s reopening plan saw a second straight day with a COVID-19 test positivity rate exceeding 8 percent, according to the most recent data for Saturday, Sept. 26, as it increased to 8.3 percent. Later Tuesday, Sept. 29, the governor’s office announced the region would see increased mitigations starting Saturday, Oct. 3, due to the rising rate of spread.
“The concerning uptick in Region 1’s positivity – jumping more than two percentage points in two weeks even as the majority of Illinois continues to see downward trends – demands increased efforts to stop the spread in our northwestern counties,” Pritzker said in a news release.
The region includes the northwest part of the state from the Rockford area to the western edge of Illinois, including Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties.
Added mitigations include closure of bars and restaurants to indoor services, while those facilities in the region must now close to outdoor service at 11 p.m. until mitigations are lifted.
Meetings, social events and gatherings will be limited to the lesser of 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity throughout the mitigation period, while party buses will not be allowed to operate. Gaming and casinos will close at 11 p.m. and be limited to 25 percent of capacity.
The region must see its positivity rate decrease to 6.5 percent or lower for three straight days to see mitigations lifted.
If the positivity rate averages between 6.5 and 8 percent, the new mitigations will remain in place. If averages greater than or equal to 8 percent after 14 days, more stringent mitigations may be applied, according to the governor’s office.
The Region 1 Health Departments said, as we learn to co-exist with COVID-19, it is important to respect and support local businesses and each other by taking the following steps:
Follow local travel guidance and limit non-essential travel.
Non-essential travel includes traveling for sports team and social gatherings.
Limit your contacts and follow the 3Ws.
Keep your contacts limited to a small number. The more people from different households that gather, the greater the risk of spreading COVID-19.
If your children are in school, keep the playdates to those who are in your child’s class.
When eating with others not from your household, keep 6ft apart • Leave a place or gathering where people are not masking or social distancing, or if the gathering is too large.
Support local businesses by continuing to order online, carrying out, and using curbside pick-up.
State Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) says the Governor’s modified restrictions, if imposed, would strike yet another blow to already shaky regional economies.
“The 37th District encompasses a very small portion of Region 1, but this approach reflects what we consider the wrong approach to the COVID-19 situation. We do not need a rush to judgment on changes that will affect a very large portion of our state. We need more information about where these higher rates are. We want to know if they reflect a single large increase in one area, such as a spike in a communal-living situation like a nursing home community. We should also look at the actual number of cases in our region,” Weaver said. “We should not continue to be subjected to the standards designed for cities like Chicago that have significantly more cases of COVID-19 than our communities. Let’s continue the focus on letting businesses open based on their unique circumstances to operate safely, and not on arbitrary and subjective designations.”
State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) and State Senator Brian Stewart (R-Freeport), both of whom represent portions of Region 1, issued the following statement criticizing the decision to place Region 1 under further restrictions:
With the region reporting zero deaths in last ten days and with our hospital ICU vacancy rates at over 50 percent, any talk of business closure is unwarranted and wrong. The safety and well-being of the citizens of this state should always be our biggest priority; however, as we saw months ago, these arbitrary mitigations measures are not the answer to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
"By shutting down our businesses and limiting their ability to operate, Governor Pritzker is doing lasting damage to our economy. Our business community is just beginning to pick up the pieces left behind from the original statewide shutdown Governor Pritzker enforced just months ago. We cannot afford to once again allow for our businesses to be negatively impacted and our workforce to take another hit just because the Governor has decided to enforce these arbitrary rules based on methodology that lacks much transparency.
"Before destroying our economy and family businesses any further, the Illinois Department of Public Health owes the citizens of northern Illinois a much better explanation than a mere press release.
"We are calling on Director Ezike to make herself available to answer, in much more detail, for these arbitrary decisions that will so negatively impact our communities."
For general questions about COVID-19, call the IDPH hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or [email protected]