30 counties at warning level as Pritzker talks mitigations’ effect on mental health

By Jerry Nowicki Capitol News Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker takes questions from the news media at a news conference in Chicago Friday, Sept. 11. (Illinois.gov photo)

SPRINGFIELD – The state reported another 2,145 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 11 as 56,661 tests were completed over the previous 24 hours, increasing the seven-day average positivity rate to 3.9 percent.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced another 32 virus-related deaths in persons aged between their 50s and their 90s. That brought the total number of deaths to 8,273 since the pandemic first reached Illinois, while there have been 257,788 confirmed cases among more than 4.6 million tests completed. The recovery rate is 96 percent for those 42 days removed from a positive diagnosis, according to IDPH.

There were 30 counties at a warning level for COVID-19 spread as of Friday, according to IDPH, and two areas that have seen increased restrictions due to COVID-19 saw their positivity rate remain roughly flat.

The counties at a warning level include Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, DeKalb, DuPage, Effingham, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jackson, Jasper, Jersey, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Morgan, Pulaski, Schuyler, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington and Williamson.

Region 7, including Will and Kankakee counties, has a 7.5 percent positivity rate as of Tuesday, which was level from the day prior. In Region 4, including the Metro East area on the Missouri border, the positivity rate was 10 percent.

The regions’ positivity rates must decrease to 6.5 percent before added mitigations — which include closing of bars and restaurants to indoor eating and drinking — can be rolled back.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, at an unrelated news conference Friday, took questions on mitigation efforts and their potential impact on mental health, drug overdoses and suicide.

“There’s a mental health component to that as well. Not to mention that we’ve also stepped up our efforts in providing social services, human services to people,” Pritzker said of the state’s mitigation efforts at the Chicago news conference.

On Thursday, Sept. 10, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news conference there was “no conclusive data” that suicide rates have increased due to COVID-19, but she noted, “issues such as job loss, financial strain and social isolation are all risk factors for suicide.”

She urged anyone in an emergency situation regarding suicide to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

“We’re looking at every aspect of how this is affecting our families and trying to deal with those,” Pritzker said Friday. “There are people who might say ‘well why don’t you just lift the mitigations because that will lift some mental health challenges that people are having’ – again, you’re trying to balance here the health care that has been so damaged by this pandemic, and clearly the consequences from people not being able to do what they normally do in their lives.”

The governor once again blamed a lack of a national strategy for making it difficult for states to mitigate spread.

He said Iowa, which had a positivity rate near 14 percent, and Missouri, with a rate near 12 percent, are among neighboring states with much higher positivity rates.

“They’re on our border and people are crossing that border all the time, both ways, and I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t do that, I’m just saying that has an impact on what we do as a state. But if you had a federal focus on a strategy for all of the states, you wouldn’t have this problem of relatively lower positivity rate in the state of Illinois and then having to deal with all the much higher positivity rates in all the surrounding states.”

While a vaccine could “change the trajectory,” according to the governor, he said the economy will be unable to recover without a national strategy.

Hospitalizations for the virus in Illinois remain slightly above their pandemic lows. At the end of Thursday, there were 1,619 persons reported hospitalized with COVID-19, leaving about 37 percent of beds available statewide.

There were 359 intensive care unit beds in use by COVID-19 patients while roughly 42 percent were available. COVID-19 patients were using 155 ventilators, with roughly 78 percent available.

A county enters a warning level when two or more risk indicators measuring the amount of COVID-19 increase, including cases per 100,000 residents, hospital bed usage, test positivity rate and number of deaths among others.

Common causes for an increase in cases in those 30 counties are college parties, weddings, large gatherings, bars and clubs, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home, according to IDPH.

“In some counties, local law enforcement and states’ attorneys are not enforcing important mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings,” IDPH said in a news release. “Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing and are not providing information on close contacts or answering the phone.”