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Gov. JB Pritzker announced the additional restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties to slow the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted as of 5 p.m. Friday.

The governor made the announcement after the region recorded three straight days of a COVID-19 test positivity rate of under 6.5%. This means the region can return to Phase 4 mitigations under the governor's Restore Illinois plan which allows for indoor service at bars and restaurants, and gatherings of up to 50 people.

"Let that be a testament to the entire state to the power of a community that embraces doctor-recommended mitigations proven to reduce risk and slow the spread," Pritzker said during a news conference in Rock Island.

Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the new restrictions late last month after the region's positivity rate hit 8% for three straight days. The new restrictions went into effect on Aug. 26.

After the South Suburban Region hit a test positivity rate high of 8.8% in late August, the rate has steadily decreased. The region recorded test positivity rates of 6.4% Wednesday, 6.1% Thursday and 5.6% Friday, according to the IDPH.

Will County Health Department spokesman Steve Brandy said the recent decline in positivity rate is a good sign, but warned residents to not let their guard down.

"We got a long way to go," Brandy said, adding that a return to normal life won't happen until an effective vaccine is widely available.

He also said residents still need to abide by social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings, especially if they go out to bars and restaurants.

Other local officials urged residents to remain cautious.

State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said in a statement that Will County businesses were put into a "dire situation" and lauded residents' "discipline" to slow the spread. Still, he asked residents to "remain vigilant" for the sake of the economy and public health.

"Moreover, I could not be more proud of our people for coming together and taking proper precautions," Hastings said in the statement. "As we move forward, our local businesses cannot afford another setback."

Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, said the lifting of restrictions was "great news," but implored residents to take public health seriously.

"The spike in positivity a few weeks ago was due to careless behavior and was in fact largely a result of people congregating in bars and restaurants," she said in a Facebook post. "Let’s not go back again."

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