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State health officials listed Will County at "warning level" for its increasing level of COVID-19 cases and deaths over the past week.
The warning comes after more than a month of data showing less community spread of the coronavirus, although more recent numbers appear to be going in the wrong direction, according to a news release.
Sue Olenek, the director of the Will County Health Department, urged residents to prioritize abiding by public health guidance to prevent the county from seeing additional restrictions again.
"We all know what happened the last time we went orange,” Olenek said in the release, referring to the warning level designation. “We ended up with restrictions, and I don’t think anyone wants to go back to that."
Olenek urged residents to wash their hands, practice physical distancing and wear face masks to slow the spread of the virus. She also asked residents to avoid closed spaces, close contact and crowded places.
"When we relent on these principles, we see a surge in positive cases," she added in the release.
The Illinois Department of Public Health considers a county at warning level when it exceeds the target on two of a variety of factors that measure the spread of the virus in that county.
As of last week, Will County is reporting 133 new cases per 100,000 residents, up from the previous week's mark of 87 new cases, and well above the IDPH target of 50 new cases.
The county also saw a "substantial" increase in COVID-19 deaths recently, according to the release. County health officials reported 13 deaths between Oct. 4 and 10, after a slow period of deaths in late September.
After Will and Kankakee counties saw additional restrictions for a rolling average test positivity rate above 8% in August, the region's rate fell below 6% through the first week of this month. Since then, it has steadily crept up above 6%. On Tuesday, the region's positivity rate stood at 6.8%, according to IDPH data.
The county health department said it plans to hire more contact tracers to collect information on those who may have exposed others to the virus. Health officials ask residents to cooperate and be forthcoming with contact tracers.
When a resident receives a call from a contact tracer, their caller ID should read "COVID CONTACT" with the phone number 312-777-1999.
For information about COVID-19 and resources in Will County, visit willcountyhealth.org or call the county health department's COVID-19 hotline at 815-740-8977.
For more local news, visit The Herald-News at https://www.theherald-news.com.