As other states are seeing COVID-19 cases surge and hospitalizations increase, Gov. JB Pritzker announced today that Illinois has created a plan to combat a resurgence of Covid-19.

Gov. Pritzker opened his remarks saying, “Illinois now has the lowest infection rate among all of our neighboring states;” it has a robust testing system, with a weekly average of 33,000 tests per day; its test positivity rate has been averaging 3%, one of the lowest in the country; and it has tripled the number of contact tracers in the last six weeks.

 “That said, many people want to know if we’re out of the woods, and they’re wondering what’s next,” said the Governor. “So I’m here today to outline the path ahead and make sure that we all know what will cause us to impose further mitigations.”

The new plan divides the State into 11 regions, and the Governor and IDPH will determine whether new mitigations are warranted on a region by region basis. Under the plan, Chicago constitutes a region, and suburban Cook County constitutes a region.

”The epidemiologists and professionals at IDPH have determined that we need to take action in a region if we see a sustained rise in the [test]positivity rate, along with either a sustained increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions, or a reduction in hospital surge capacities,” said the Governor.

The plan states in more specific terms, “The following health metrics will be used to determine when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations:

  • A sustained rise in the 7-day rolling average of the test positivity rate ( for 7 days out of a 10 day period) and one of the following:
    • A sustained increase in hospital admissions for a Covid-19 like illness, or
    • A reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds under 20%) OR
  • Three consecutive days averaging greater than or equal to an 8% positivity rate.

“This plan lays out an array of mitigation strategies that can be applied if a region breaches the Resurgence metrics,” said Gov. Pritzker. There are distinct mitigation strategies for bars and restaurants; hospitals; meetings, social events and religious gatherings; offices; organized recreational activities and gyms; retail; and salons and personal care.

The plan also identifies three tiers of possible mitigation strategies for each of these settings, with Tier 1 being less restrictive and Tier 3 the most restrictive. “If sustained increases in health metrics continue unabated, further mitigations could be added from additional tiers,” says the plan.

 For example, for bars and restaurants, the Tier 1 strategy is “Reduce indoor dining and suspend indoor bar service.” If that doesn’t work, the Tier 2 strategy is “Suspend indoor dining and bar service.” If that doesn’t work, the Tier 3 strategy is “Suspend in-person dining; takeout only.”

This plan ensures we are looking at all available data to make timely decisions to protect the health of our communities,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of IDPH, said in a statement. “By assessing key metrics that indicate both the disease burden and the capacity of each COVID-19 region to respond, we can then take targeted actions within specific regions to help mitigate the spread of this deadly disease while keeping as much of our State open as possible.”

Gov. Pritzker expressed several other concerns.

 “I’m also deeply troubled by outbreaks that we’re seeing all around the State tied to activities like youth sports, like in Lake Zurich where dozens of students and parents have tested positive in a related outbreak, “said Gov. Pritzker.

“And in Knox County, where a teen softball league is also experiencing an outbreak. Remember, the degree to which we can reduce risk and restore aspects of our daily lives is still unfolding. We’re continually evaluating what works and what doesn’t work. And we’re taking a good hard look at how youth sports fits into that conversation.”

The Governor also gave a stark warning to school districts that do not comply with Illinois State Board of Education’s  guidelines for reopening schools.

“To be very clear here, any district that intends to disregard this guidance is gambling with the lives of our children, teachers, and families. Districts that don’t live up to public health guidelines and standards and don’t make a genuine attempt to protect their communities from this virus could be held liable in the courts by community members who are ill-affected,” said the Governor.

“I’m a father. I understand that parents are worried sick about having to choose between seeing their kids miss even more in-person schooling at critical ages and the very real threat of this virus. Good people with good intentions can disagree on how and when kids should go back to school. But let me be clear, I wouldn’t let my own children return to a school where masks are not mandatory and serious effort hasn’t been made to keep students distanced during the day. This should not be controversial.”

He added, “When you go out without a mask, or host secret parties, stuff your bar or restaurant to capacity despite the warnings, ignore common sense in your worship practices, it’s not a political statement. You’re hurting your neighbor who is desperate to keep their business open, or your friend who has an immune compromised child who has been inside for months, or your parents who don’t have the same defenses against this virus that you may.”