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The Illinois Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the additional restrictions placed on Will and Kankakee counties will remain in place until the region's COVID-19 test positivity rate improves further.
Two weeks ago, state officials announced the new restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 after the region's positivity rate hit a rolling average of 8% for three straight days. Those new restrictions included a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants.
The region's improving test positivity rate also kept it from seeing more strict mitigations.
The South Suburban region's positivity rate dropped below 8% in recent days, which prevented Will and Kankakee counties from reaching the second tier of restrictions, IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said in an email statement.
If the region had continued to see positivity rates at 8% or higher, it would have reached the second tier of additional measures, which includes greater limits on gatherings and room capacity, a suspension of organized outdoor recreational activities and the suspension of elective procedures at hospitals, among others, according to the IDPH website.
For the IDPH to lift the additional restrictions already in effect, the region will have to record a positivity rate of 6.5% and stay at that level. At that point, the region can return to Phase 4 mitigations under Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan, which allows for limited indoor dining.
The IDPH has said it evaluates a region's metrics over a 14-day monitoring period to determine if additional measures are needed or if the present measures can be lifted.
Local elected officials and chamber groups have criticized the state government for how its handled implementing these new restrictions, arguing they negatively impact local businesses.
The chamber groups recently received a response from the governor's office to their letter detailing their concerns over how the restrictions affect local bars and restaurants.
State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said on his office's Facebook page Wednesday that Pritzker hosted a meeting about the additional restrictions in the region. Hastings said he asked that the restrictions be completely lifted immediately if the region hits the 6.5% positivity rate threshold.
When the new restrictions were first announced, Hastings urged Pritzker to reconsider the specific measures taken and how they would affect local businesses.
The region's average positivity rate stood at 7.4% as of Thursday.