CHICAGO — The state has made Chicago into its own region during the coronavirus pandemic, hoping that will help experts better pinpoint where outbreaks are happening and where hospitals need help.
The state divided Illinois into four regions when Gov. JB Pritzker announced his coronavirus recovery plan this spring, grouping Chicago with Cook County and nearby suburbs. Data from the regions — like how many coronavirus cases there were and how hospitals were doing — was used to determine if a region could progress in the recovery plan and further reopen.
But Pritzker announced a change to the regions Wednesday, saying the state will now be sectioned into 11 areas, with Chicago on its own.
The move is being made because the growth in testing and contact tracing has given officials “a much more surgical ability to manage outbreaks and address problems locally,” Pritzker said.
Making the change will allow the state to better monitor where outbreaks are occurring, where communities are in danger and if a region has enough hospital capacity should there be an outbreak, Pritzker said.
The entire state is currently in Phase 4, which reopened bars, restaurants, salons and gyms — but a recent rise in cases could lead the state to close businesses linked to the spread of COVID-19, officials said.
Chicago has seen an uptick in its positivity rate and its average number of new cases. Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned earlier Wednesday the city could take steps back if that increase continues.
Pritzker said he called Lightfoot last week to talk about the “concerning uptick in [Chicago’s] positivity rate,” but outbreaks have been seen all across Illinois. They have been tied to Fourth of July parties, youth sports, bars, church services and more.
With cases rising throughout the state, the state will use COVID-19 data from the 11 regions to determine whether and where they need to close businesses or impose tighter restrictions.
When officials see trends that indicate a problem in a region, “we need to start tightening mitigations in that region before it’s too late,” Pritzker said.
Officials will take action if they see an increase in a region’s seven-day average positivity rate for seven days out of a 10, as well as one of these indicators:
- A seven-day increase in hospital admissions for a coronavirus-like illness.
- A reduction in hospital capacity that would threaten the area’s surge capabilities
- Three consecutive days where a region averaged a positivity rate of 8 percent or higher.
Currently, all regions have a positivity rate of 5 percent or lower — with the highest rate in the Southern Region of the state.
The new regions:
- North: Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties
- North-Central: Bureau, Fulton, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Kendall, Knox, La Salle, Livingston, Marshall, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Warren and Woodford counties
- West-Central: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Logan, Macoupin, Mason, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler and Scott counties
- Metro East: Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties.
- Southern: Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White and Williamson counties.
- East-Central: Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, De Witt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby and Vermillion counties.
- South Suburban: Kankakee and Will counties.
- West Suburban: DuPage and Kane counties.
- North Suburban: Lake and McHenry counties.
- Suburban Cook: Cook County, excluding Chicago.
- Chicago: city of Chicago.
Pritzker, joined by Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, urged Illinois residents to wear face coverings every day, every time they leave their home. These measures will ensure Illinois does not end up back in Phase 1, when there was a mandatory lockdown, they said.
Pritzker said the state is trying to take a more targeted approach to outbreaks, and the new regions will allow officials to zero in on a county or town and make changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 instead of shutting down an entire region.
“Outbreaks are taking place consistently and in every region of the state,” Pritzker said.
The state also released an outline of what businesses will be closed if a surge in cases continued. For example, if a region has a sustained increase in new cases, the state could reduce indoor dining capacity or suspend bar service.
In a worst-case scenario, the region could lose outdoor and indoor dining entirely.
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