WILL COUNTY – Beginning Wednesday, bars and restaurants in Will and Kankakee County will restrict indoor dining for at least two weeks under new mitigation efforts announced by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“The positivity levels in this region exceeds the positivity levels in California, and in North Carolina and is approaching the level of Georgia. This is a red alert for everyone who works and lives here and demands a renewed effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.” Gov. Pritzker said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, Region 7 reported a positivity rate of 8.4%, the highest rolling seven day positivity rate since new measures had been taken into place. Region 7 has been at or above 8.0% since last Saturday.
“Those increases may seem minimal,” Dr. Ezike said Tuesday afternoon of the positivity rate increase for Region 7. “But they are representative of a much larger problem that we do have in the State. A problem that can lead to crowded hospitals. A problem that can lead to additional lost lives.”
Both Region 4 and Region 7 are now under additional mitigation restrictions, with Region 7 strickter than Region 4, based off of failed mitigation efforts health department officials at seven local offices pushed on the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“All indoor bar service and indoor dining service will be closed. Outdoor bars and dining may stay open for table service, if they follow the required mitigations, including all patrons should remain seated and reservations will be required for any sized groups.” Gov. Pritzker announced Tuesday. “None of these rules are intended to punish or irritate anyone. They are imposed with a sincere desire to keep the people of Will and Kankakee county safe and healthy.”
Region 4 is expected to go into similar mitigation practices next week due to a previous commitment put forth by the State of Illinois. The state listened to seven health departments in the Region to impose relaxed mitigations which Gov. Pritzker called Tuesday, ‘a mistake’.
Will County Executive Denise Winfrey said Tuesday the county’s residents are “strong enough to do the right thing,” including wearing face masks and avoiding large gatherings.
Over the course of the next two weeks, mitigation tactics could be reduced, maintained, or strengthened depending on how the numbers look. Once a region maintains daily numbers under 6.5 percent, it will return to normal mitigation under Phase 4 of Restore Illinois.
Local residents, businesses, and politicians have already weighted in on the new mitigation. Tuesday morning, Kankakee County Board Chairman Andrew Wheeler called the new migitations ‘beyond unfair.’
“Kankakee County residents and business have done everything possible to bend the curve here in our County, and their efforts have worked. Our data bears this out,” Chairman Wheeler said in a statement.
In the last 48 hours, Kankakee County has reported 70 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the most since May 26th. New data showed over a quarter of all cases, 27.9% – 599 cases, in Kankakee County remained active as of Tuesday.
“What we have done here has been effective in terms of public health, bed capacity and all others measures, and to penalize a community for achieving the desired outcome is beyond unfair. It is punitive and arbitrary in nature. Our residents and businesses deserve better.” Wheeler said in a statement issued this morning.
Late Monday night, Kankakee County’s seventh school district reported cases of COVID-19 among their community in Manteno. Nearly half of all school districts in Kankakee County are now reporting cases of the pandemic within their school communities, not including Olivet Nazarene University, which as of Tuesday morning, reported 7 cases itself.
Local politicians had played a key role in creating the Will/Kankakee Region 7 earlier this year, when the Region was created and separated from Cook County and the City of Chicago. Prior to the separation, those public health regions had been in place by the Illinois Department of Public Health since the 1970s.
As of last Friday, Kankakee County was placed on one (New Cases Per 100,000) of eight warning metrics used by IPDH to monitor COVID-19 risk metrics. It’s a warning the County has routinely triggered since being placed into Region 7. Last week, Kankakee beat Will County for the metric, registering 95 per 100k. Will County registered 92 per 100k, but also triggered a death warning.