Restrictions possible as region's COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise

Lake and McHenry County residents could 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 news release.

Illinois' North Suburban health region, composed of Lake County and McHenry County, continues to fall below the state's thresholds for positivity rates and hospital capacity as of Saturday – the most recent data available.

At that time, the region's testing positivity rate was 5.1%, up 0.3% from Friday, Illinois Department of Public Health data shows. The testing positivity rate has been on the rise for nine out of the past 10 days, according to IDPH data.

The state has said increased restrictions could be enacted should regions hit 8%, and both counties' health departments are "evaluating future interventions" that could be pursued if that happens, according to a news release the McHenry County Department of Public Health sent Tuesday.

Those interventions could include restricting the size of social gatherings, reducing capacity at businesses, or scaling back operations in industries that pose a higher risk of transmission, such as indoor dining, bars, salons or personal care services, according to the release.

Should the North Suburban Region's numbers rise above the state's target, both counties would receive a warning from the state and collectively work to determine the source of the problem, MCDH Community Information Coordinator Lindsey Salvatelli said. At that point, the region would choose from a list of mitigation options to address the root cause of the increase.

“Our success relies heavily on our residents adhering to the simple public health guidelines that we know are effective in slowing this virus,” McHenry County Department of Health Administrator Melissa Adamson said. “Our region cannot accomplish this goal without public support, and we will be successful if we commit to the basics – wearing masks, washing our hands, and watching our distance from others.”

According to a July 15 update to Gov. JB Pritzker's COVID-19 response plan, the state will track public health metrics to monitor any potential resurgences of COVID-19. Additional restrictions can be placed on any of the state's 11 health regions if they sustain an increase in its 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 illness or a reduction in hospital beds or ICU capacity below 20%.

The North Suburban Region hasn't seen an increase in hospital admissions since July 15, IDPH data shows.

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

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

The new model grants "better control and greater flexibility" in both counties' COVID-19 response, McHenry County Administrator Pete Austin said.

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

Adamson and Lake County Health Department Executive Director Mark Pfister both stressed the importance of wearing a mask or face covering to help maintain the loosened restrictions brought about in phases three and four of the governor's five-phase Restore Illinois plan.

"We must all do our part to prevent new infections to keep our positivity rate from continuing to climb," Pfister said.