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Local News

Will County not at 'warning level' for COVID-19 spread for first time in a month

Region's test positivity rate still not low enough to lift new restrictions

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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For the first time in nearly a month, Will County did not appear on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 warning level list last Friday.

The IDPH first listed Will County at warning level Aug. 14 for its high number of new cases and emergency room visits for COVID-19-like illness.

Will County still exceeds the state’s threshold for new cases, recording 117 new cases per 100,000 people, well above the IDPH target of 50 new cases.

This week, Will County did meet the IDPH targets for other COVID-19-related metrics, including its number of deaths, test positivity rate, tests performed, emergency room visits, hospital admissions and intensive care unit bed availability.

Nearby DuPage and Grundy counties did make the IDPH list for COVID-19 warning level last week.

Still, the South Suburban health region, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, has yet to meet the requirement for the additional mitigations to be lifted.

The state announced new restrictions, including a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants, late last month after the region’s COVID-19 test positivity rate hit 8% or more for three straight days.

The region’s COVID-19 test positivity has remained under 8% since early last week and stood at 7.2% as of Monday.

Health officials have said the region needs to record a positivity rate of 6.5% or less for three straight days for the new restrictions to be lifted.

Last week, the IDPH confirmed the present restrictions would remain in place as it continues to reevaluate the region over a 14-day period.

Gov. JB Pritkzer last week noted the region’s improving metrics and said he was “hopeful” that the region “might become a testament to the community’s ability to turn this ship around in the right direction.”

Local Republicans have become more vocal in demanding the state lift the restrictions. They also questioned the accuracy of how COVID-19-related data points, like the region’s test positivity rate, are calculated.

The IDPH and Will County Health Department have answered many of these questions to clarify those numbers.

During a press conference last Friday, local Republicans also criticized the county health department for asking residents to report violations of the COVID-19 restrictions. Health department spokesman Steve Brandy said this measure is no different than residents reporting any other violation of the law.

“We need everybody to be together and to be united on this,” Brandy said. “And that’s the biggest concern right now.”

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