Possible constraints as the region’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise

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Lake County and McHenry residents may be subject to renewed restrictions on social gatherings and business operations if the region’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise, according to a press release.

The northern Illinois suburban health region, comprised of Lake County and McHenry County, continues to drop below state thresholds for positivity rates and hospital capacity as of Saturday, the most recent data available.

At the time, the region’s test positivity rate was 5.1%, up 0.3% from Friday, data from the Illinois Department of Public Health show. The test positivity rate has increased in nine of the last 10 days, according to IDPH data.

The state has said that more restrictions could be applied if the regions reach 8%, and the health departments of both counties are “evaluating future interventions” that could be carried out if that happens, according to a press release sent Tuesday by the McHenry County Department of Public Health.

Those interventions could include restricting the size of social gatherings, reducing capacity in companies or reducing operations in industries that pose a higher risk of transmission, such as indoor dining, bars, lounges or personal care services, according to the statement.

If the numbers for the Northern Suburban Region exceed the state target, both counties will receive a warning from the state and work collectively to determine the source of the problem, said Lindsey Salvatelli, MCDH Community Information Coordinator. At that point, the region would choose from a list of mitigation options to address the root cause of the increase.

“Our success depends largely on our residents adhering to simple public health guidelines that we know are effective in curbing this virus,” said Melissa Adamson, Administrator of the McHenry County Health Department. “Our region cannot achieve this goal without public support, and we will succeed if we commit to the basics: wearing masks, washing our hands, and observing our distance from others.”

According to a July 15 update to Governor JB Pritzker’s COVID-19 response plan, the state will track public health metrics to monitor any potential resurgence of COVID-19. Additional restrictions may apply to any of the state’s 11 health regions if they maintain an increase in their average positivity rate for seven days out of a ten-day period.

A region may also become more restrictive if there is a seven-day increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-related illnesses or a reduction in hospital beds or ICU capacity below 20%.

The northern suburban region has not seen an increase in hospital admissions since July 15, IDPH data shows.

If a region reports three consecutive days with an average positivity rate of more than 8%, mitigation of additional infection through a tiered system of restriction guidelines offered by IDPH will be considered.

“Under this new model, we are working across county borders in collaboration with the state, allowing our public health experts to guide decisions,” said Lake County Administrator Gary Gibson. “Our goal is to keep our communities moving forward. However, if we continue to see a resurgence, we will act quickly to save lives. “

The new model provides “better control and greater flexibility” in the COVID-19 response from both counties, McHenry County Administrator Pete Austin said.

“We have successfully kept our COVID-19 cases and deaths low in our region for the past month and we are united in our efforts to keep this virus at bay,” Austin said.

Adamson and the Executive Director of the Lake County Health Department, Mark Pfister, emphasized the importance of wearing a mask or face covering to help maintain the relaxed restrictions caused in phases three and four of the five-phase Restore Illinois plan of the governor.

“We all must do our part to prevent new infections and prevent our positivity rate from continuing to rise,” said Pfister.