You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warns northwest Illinois region could be headed for stricter COVID-19 regulations

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 9/23/2020 By Jamie Munks, Chicago Tribune
a person walking down a sidewalk next to a dock: Yana Feyganova does some stretches on the first day of the reopening of the Chicago Riverwalk on June 12, 2020. © Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Yana Feyganova does some stretches on the first day of the reopening of the Chicago Riverwalk on June 12, 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Wednesday the region of northwest Illinois that includes Rockford and Northern Illinois University and borders Wisconsin and Iowa could soon see stricter rules aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The nine-county region, as defined by Pritzker’s reopening plan, had a 7.5% test positivity rate as of Wednesday, which has climbed “at a concerning rate,” the governor said at a news conference in Chicago.

Pritzker’s administration scales back reopening when a region reaches or surpasses the state-set threshold of 8% positivity rate for three consecutive days, and Illinois Department of Public Health officials have been in talks with local public health departments to discuss ways to slow the spread, which in other regions has meant renewed limits on bars, restaurants and other businesses.

a bridge over a body of water: An aerial view of an empty South Lake Shore Drive seen from Maggie Daley Park in Chicago on May 13, 2020. © Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS An aerial view of an empty South Lake Shore Drive seen from Maggie Daley Park in Chicago on May 13, 2020.

State public health officials reported 1,848 newly diagnosed coronavirus cases and 22 additional deaths of people with COVID-19 on Wednesday, raising the statewide tallies to 279,114 known cases and 8,508 deaths throughout the course of the pandemic.

The northwest region’s positivity rate rose to 7.5% from 6% a week earlier. NIU continues to operate with remote classes only, and more than 200 students and several staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Universities across the nation have struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19 since students returned to campus for the fall semester, and some have instituted widespread quarantines and online learning. State public health officials also have attributed cases to out-of-state travel, and the northwest region borders two states with significantly higher positivity rates than Illinois'.

a group of lawn chairs sitting on top of a grass covered field: New social distancing circles are drawn on a lawn as visitors relax June 15, 2020, as Millennium Park reopens after it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. © Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS New social distancing circles are drawn on a lawn as visitors relax June 15, 2020, as Millennium Park reopens after it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, Iowa’s positivity rate is 15.8%, while Wisconsin’s is 17.3%.

NIU announced earlier this month that it would limit in-person instruction until Sept. 28. At the time the university made that move, 120 students had tested positive and the numbers have jumped by roughly 100 positive tests since.

University President Lisa Freeman, in a letter earlier this month, attributed the “vast majority of student cases” to students living off-campus or attending off-campus gatherings “where masks were not worn and physical distancing was not respected.”

“We are also aware that some students are not fully cooperating with health officials and following guidelines on reporting symptoms and potential exposure,” Freeman wrote. “These careless and unacceptable activities have led to a substantial increase in the overall positivity rate for DeKalb County and put our entire community at risk.”

a person holding a sign: Arthur Cook, 93, gives his grandchildren, Heidi and Roy Cook, virtual hugs during an outdoor visit at Hillcrest Nursing Center on June 30, 2020, in Round Lake Beach. Arthur had not been outside or visited in person with family members since February. © Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Arthur Cook, 93, gives his grandchildren, Heidi and Roy Cook, virtual hugs during an outdoor visit at Hillcrest Nursing Center on June 30, 2020, in Round Lake Beach. Arthur had not been outside or visited in person with family members since February.

If stricter rules are imposed in the northwest region, it would become the third to see the state scale back its reopening efforts. The first was the Metro East region, where bar service and indoor dining are still closed, and the in-person gathering cap is lower than the rest of the state.

a group of people in a room: AMC Theatres reopen with shows downtown at AMC River East on Aug, 20, 2020. © E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS AMC Theatres reopen with shows downtown at AMC River East on Aug, 20, 2020.

That region has seen its positivity rate decline to 7.3% after topping 10% weeks earlier.

Will and Kankakee counties also saw tougher rules after passing the state’s positivity rate threshold, but were returned to the coronavirus restrictions in place across the rest of the state after the rate decreased to below 6.5% for three days in a row.

The state reported 46,391 tests conducted during a 24-hour period on Wednesday, pushing the cumulative number of tests conducted in Illinois past 5.2 million. The seven-day statewide positivity rate stands at 3.5%.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike cautioned people against becoming numb to the numbers and continued to urge people to wear masks, keep physical distance from others in public and to get a flu shot.

a man wearing a military uniform: Members of the Chicago Police Department Honor Guard perform ceremonial honors before the start of funeral services for Chicago police Officer Ronald Newman at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island on April 23, 2020. Newman, 59, was the third Chicago police officer to die of complications stemming from COVID-19. © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Members of the Chicago Police Department Honor Guard perform ceremonial honors before the start of funeral services for Chicago police Officer Ronald Newman at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island on April 23, 2020. Newman, 59, was the third Chicago police officer to die of complications stemming from COVID-19.

jmunks@chicagotribune.com

———

©2020 the Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

a woman standing in front of a store: Asia Brown, right, and co-worker Lekia Wilson grab bottles of bleach as they shop at Pete's Fresh Market in Oak Park on March 19, 2020. © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Asia Brown, right, and co-worker Lekia Wilson grab bottles of bleach as they shop at Pete's Fresh Market in Oak Park on March 19, 2020.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

a person in a blue car on a busy street: COVID-19 testing at Roseland Community Hospital on April 3, 2020. © E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS COVID-19 testing at Roseland Community Hospital on April 3, 2020. a man sitting on a bed: Housekeeper Tonia Harvey cleans a bed in the Roseland Community Hospital intensive care unit after a COVID-19 patient died, April 17, 2020. © E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Housekeeper Tonia Harvey cleans a bed in the Roseland Community Hospital intensive care unit after a COVID-19 patient died, April 17, 2020.
AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon