Illinois is enacting new restrictions on bars and restaurants in suburban Cook County, as part of its latest effort to quell a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Starting Wednesday, the state is suspending indoor dining and drinking, ending outside bar service at 11:00 p.m., eliminating the use of party buses, putting a curfew of 11:00 p.m. on casinos and capping all social gatherings at 25 people.
The same restrictions also apply to the Metro East region outside of St. Louis.
Cook County has seen its testing positivity rates climb for eight straight days, and its hospital admissions due to COVID-like illnesses are also on the rise.
It comes as cases and the positivity rate statewide have also been shooting up. On Monday, the state announced another 4,729 cases, after reporting 6,161 new positive cases on Sunday — the highest number of cases Illinois has seen in a single day during the entire pandemic.
The state on Monday also announced 17 more deaths in the past 24 hours.
“Those are people whose families’ thought that they would get to see them at the Thanksgiving table,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a news conference. “These are our friends and family members who are gone from our lives.”
The governor enacted similar restrictions on bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee Counties last Friday.
Officials said suburban Cook County is the first region in Illinois to see restrictions reimposed due not only to a higher positivity rate, but also to increased hospitalizations.
“We are seeing test positivity across the state increase, but for Region 10, Suburban Cook County, we are also seeing a steady increase in hospitalizations for COVID-like illness,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a written statement Monday.
Hospitals in suburban Cook County currently have 25% of their beds available, with 30% of ICU beds available, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data.
“The numbers are very concerning and a wake-up call as we head into colder weather, flu season and the holidays,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. “We are all experiencing COVID fatigue, but we must remain vigilant and continue practicing the commonsense strategies that have been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”
The City of Chicago is not included in the state’s restrictions being placed on Cook County, though Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week announced imposed renewed restrictions in the city that took effect Friday.
Nonessential businesses are required to remain closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day within city limits. Bars that don’t serve food will have to stop indoor service and restaurants must end service at 10 pm.
In a more sweeping suggestion, Lightfoot’s administration is encouraging residents to stay away from social gatherings of more than six people, and to end all social gatherings by 10 p.m.
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold. Reporter Mariah Woelfel contributed.