Illinois Governor and Chicago Mayor Sound Alarm and Possible New Restrictions as COVID Cases in Chicago and State Surge

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

There has been a significant increase in cases all over Illinois, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, at least half of which has been attributed to the delta variant.
People crowing into local Chicago bar, The Green Mile, one factor believed to be linked to the uptick in cases in Chicago and Illinois.Kenneth C. Zirkel/flickr

COVID-19 cases have been rising again in Illinois in the past few weeks. Thursday the state reported almost 2,000 new cases, the most in over two months.

Illinois was averaging 1,027 new cases per day over the last week. This is the first time the weekly average for new COVID cases has been more than 1,000 since May 27th. The statewide weekly average case positivity rate has risen to 3%, which is more than triple the 0.9% case positivity rate reported by the state the first week of July.

New cases are up in every area of Illinois, though they are increasing quicker in far southern Illinois, the Metro East area which is near St. Louis and the west-central Illinois area compared to the rest of the state. Those are also the regions that have significantly lower vaccination rates.

At the announcement of his re-election bid, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker warned that restrictions could return for areas of the state experiencing a rise in COVID cases.

"I believe strongly that we will impose mitigations as it's appropriate, where it's appropriate," Pritzker said.

Urging anyone who is unvaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as they could, the governor said that the state will keep monitoring COVID statistics like positivity rate, numbers of new cases, and how many cases require hospitalization.

In the conclusion of his re-election video, Pritzker praised the people of Illinois for their response to the pandemic.

“We had so much to accomplish and we were able to do that together,” Pritzker said. “I’m very proud of all of the people of the state of Illinois and we have so much more we can do together.”

. . .

The city of Chicago is one area of the state that is seeing an uptick in new cases. The rates of positive test results, while still low, have jumped over the past week in Chicago and Suburban Cook County. This week there was a 1.5 percent positivity rate in Chicago which is up from 1 percent last week. The suburbs are up even higher with a positivity rate of 1.9 percent.

At her Tuesday press conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, echoed much of what Governor Pritzker had to say about the increasing rates of Covid. She said she was sending a warning about a recent uptick in coronavirus cases across the city. The mayor said that while the number of new cases were still significantly below the numbers seen at the height of the peak of the outbreak, the rise in daily cases and positive test results in Chicago largely thought to be the result of the delta variant she was worried.

"It's still a concerning development that we want to not only stay ahead of, but to quash completely. If we allow the virus to continue to linger here in Chicago, we will likely see further mutations, some of which our current vaccines may not be able to protect against and have to reinforce some of the restrictions that have come to infamously define much of 2020, and part of 2021,” Lightfoot said. “The reality is this scenario - the worst case - is entirely preventable, and that's because we have three different vaccines readily available to all of our residents, which offer very good protection against delta, and other new variants."

While Lightfoot said she wasn’t at the point of re-establishing restrictions like several other states have, she also wasn’t ruling out the possibility of implementing restrictions in the future. At the same time, even with new cases on the rise, the mayor said she doesn’t regret her decision to Lollapalooza to take place next week.

But Lightfoot did warn restaurant owners, bar owners and owners of other places which are popular among younger Chicagoans, to do what they could to protect customers from catching the coronavirus, or else they risked a crackdown.

Chicago has experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases, in particular among people ages 18 to 29. Officials said this increase is related to several factors, including the fact that young people have started congregating in groups and at businesses without social distancing or face coverings. According to Lightfoot, because of that, Chicago is trying to determine where this population are gathering and how they can be encouraged to observe safer behaviors, including getting vaccinated.

“The vaccine is not just a feel-good thing. It’s about protecting you from sickness and death,” said Lightfoot.

Watch the statement made by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady about the rising rates of COVID-19 in the city:

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