Administration still ‘in a pause’ when considering mitigation rollbacks
The graph shows the rolling, 7-day positivity rate for tests completed starting on June 1. Illinois Department of Public Health data was used to calculate the averages. (Credit: Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois)
That's despite several regions meeting metrics to move to Tier 2
By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — The statewide COVID-19 positivity rate ticked down slightly on Tuesday to 8. 5 percent, marking nearly a month that the rate has stayed below 10 percent.
The rolling seven-day average statewide case positivity rate dropped by one-tenth of a percentage point, from 8.6 percent the day before. The rate has remained below 10 percent since Dec. 8, and well below second-wave highs of 13.2 percent in mid-November.
On Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 6,839 new confirmed and probable cases of the virus, among 991,719 total cases and more than 13.6 million tests since the pandemic began.
The COVID-19 death toll has reached 16,959, including 126 additional deaths reported Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, only four of the state’s 11 mitigation regions had not met the criteria Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration provided to return to Tier 2 mitigations, from Tier 3.
Those areas are Region 4, which covers five southwestern counties along the Missouri border; Region 5, which spans 20 counties in southern Illinois; Region 6, which covers 21 southeastern counties reaching the Indiana border; and Region 9, which includes McHenry and Lake counties.
Jordan Abudayyeh, the governor’s spokesperson, said in an email Monday that the administration is “in a pause in mitigation moves to see what impact holiday gatherings have on the data.”
The entire state came under the more restrictive Tier 3 public health measures on Nov. 20 in an effort to slow the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Under Tier 3, businesses — such as fitness centers and hotels — must follow 25 percent capacity limits, and bars and restaurants are closed to indoor service. Tier 2 mitigations also impose a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants.
In addition, Tier 3 mitigations shut down casinos, gaming terminals, theaters, performing arts centers and indoor museums and amusement centers, among other indoor recreation places.
The criteria for moving to Tier 2 requires a test positivity rate less than 12 percent for three consecutive days, greater than 20 percent intensive care unit and medical or surgical bed availability for three consecutive days, and a decline in the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital in at least 7 out of the last 10 days.
Abudayyeh also criticized the Sangamon County Health Department for issuing new mitigation orders allowing for bars and restaurants to provide indoor service at 25 percent capacity that went into effect on Sunday.
“As the governor has said, the public health experts need to closely monitor the data after the holidays to gauge the spread of the virus. Once the experts agree that we have averted another surge, then regions will be able to move back to lower tiers in the mitigation plan,” she said in an emailed statement. “It’s time for local officials to step up and remember that being a leader doesn’t mean making the easy choice, it means doing everything you can to protect the people who trust you to serve them.”
Sangamon County is in Region 3, which encompasses 18 counties in central Illinois. The county reported a 6.5 percent rolling seven-day positivity rate on Tuesday, and the rate has remained at 6.5 percent or less for seven consecutive days. The positivity rate has fallen considerably from a high of 16.8 percent on Nov. 14.
The new mitigation orders in Sangamon County require establishments to follow public health measures, such as maintaining six-feet social distance and wearing face coverings indoors when not seated. They come as lawmakers are set for a Friday return for a legislative session.
Meanwhile, IDPH reported there were 3,905 people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 as of Monday night, a decrease of 43 from the day prior.
There were 800 intensive care beds in use by COVID-19 patients as of Monday night, a decrease of 16 from the day prior. That left 24.3 percent of ICU beds open statewide.
COVID-19 patients occupied 457 ventilators as of Monday night, a decrease of 14 from the day prior.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.