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Local News

COVID-19 positivity rate in Will, Kankakee counties continues to rise

State imposed new restrictions for positivity rate reaching 8%

A sign requiring face masks can be seen Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Ill.
A sign requiring face masks can be seen Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Ill.

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A week after the state imposed new restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Will and Kankakee counties, the region's test positivity rate continues to increase.

After the region's positivity rate reached a rolling average of at least 8% for three days, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced new mitigations. State officials said the region had to decrease its positivity rate to 6.5% over three days for restrictions to be lifted.

Between Aug. 20 and Aug. 26, the region's average positivity rate remained at between 8.3% and 8.4%. The rate on Aug. 27 was 8.5% and on Aug. 28, it reached 8.8%, according to state data.

"It's very concerning for all of us," said Steve Brandy, the spokesman for the Will County Health Department.

The new restrictions went into effect on Aug. 26. The IDPH said it would track the region's positivity rate for two weeks afterwards to determine if the mitigations could be relaxed or if more were needed.

If the region's positivity rate averaged 6.5% or less over a 14-day period, it would return fully to Phase 4 conditions under the governor's Restore Illinois Plan, according to the IDPH.

If the region's positivity rate continued to average 8% or more, more stringent mitigations could be applied.

Brandy he was unsure about what the exact timeline would be for new mitigations if the region's positivity rate continues to be above 8%.

"We weren't told anything definite," he said.

Local legislators and the Joliet Area Chamber of Commerce have criticized the state for inconsistencies in how it's imposed mitigations for the South Suburban region versus the East St. Louis area. Pritzker acknowledged last week the inconsistencies were a "mistake."

Furthermore, the IDPH has failed to answer questions about what specific additional mitigations may be imposed on the South Suburban region if its positivity rate does not improve in the next week.

On its website, the IDPH breaks up the additional mitigations into three tiers. For instance, Tier 1 mitigations call for reduced indoor dining capacity and the suspension of indoor bar service.

Tier 2 calls for the suspension of indoor service at bars and restaurants. The IDPH mitigations announced last week for Will and Kankakee counties banned indoor service at bars and restaurants, so it appears the region is in Tier 2.

In Tier 3, all in-person dining would be suspended and only takeout service will be allowed, among other restrictions for hospitals, social events, and more.

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