Average COVID-19 test positivity rate hits 20% in Will County

IDPH director calls lack of available ICU beds a 'dire situation'

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state, about one in five people who get a test in Will County are found to be infected according to the latest public health data.

The average rolling COVID-19 test positivity rate in Will County reached 20.1% on Nov. 15 and has remained at about that level over the next two days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Each day when the IDPH reports COVID-19 testing data for the state, the numbers represent the tests processed from three days prior.

The South Suburban Region, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, has also recorded a rolling average test positivity rate of about 20% in recent days.

Like nearly all counties in the state, IDPH has listed Will County at "warning level" due to its high community spread.

Between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, Will County reported 743 new cases per 100,000 people. That's more than 14 times the amount of new cases per 100,000 that the IDPH says should be the target for counties.

Due to the exponential spread of the virus throughout the state, Gov. JB Pritzker announced stricter statewide mitigations which went into effect on Friday. The restrictions closed casinos, and reduced capacity at retail shops and health clubs.

Every region of the state had already been under enhanced mitigations, specifically a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants.

As the cases have continued to rise, local elected officials in Will County have expressed concern.

Officials have been especially worried about how busy hospitals in the region are becoming.

The number of patients with the virus at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox and other area facilities has been rising.

Recently, over 80% of the hospital intensive care unit beds have been in use at a given time in the South Suburban Region.

As of Thursday, there were only 22 intensive care unit beds available for operation out of 162 at hospitals in Will and Kankakee counties.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the IDPH, was asked about the low level of ICU bed availability in the region during a news conference Friday.

"I think it's a dire situation," she said.

Ezike said as the region's test positivity rates continues to climb, she would expect even more hospitalizations could be coming as residents get sick. She said the additional restrictions that went into effect Friday are meant to avoid a situation where local patients who need a bed aren't able to get one.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.