Cook County COVID surge may lead to tightened restrictions, health officials warn

MORTON GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- The Cook County Health Department is sounding the alarm that more restrictions could be coming if COVID case numbers continue to rise.

There is serious concern in Cook County tonight about ICU bed availability, which currently sits at 22%, the lowest in the region.

If it falls below 20% for three consecutive days, tougher mitigations could go into place.

"If the trend continues in the wrong direction we will not hesitate to tighten restrictions," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Cook County Health Dept.

Rubin said after a sharp COVID uptick driven by young people, suburban Cook County Health officials are eyeing more COVID restrictions in the coming weeks if cases and hospitalizations continue to climb.

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"It's the 20s and 30-year-olds, and somewhat 40-year-olds, are the ones that are testing positive. And we know the younger people are more likely to be out and about and maybe be a little less observant of the guidance, which means masks," Rubin said

The test positivity rate in Cook County is currently at 5.7%, more than a point above the statewide average.

No corner of the county is untouched. In Glencoe, Lyons and Harvey, infections have more than tripled in recent weeks. In Berkeley, they're up 400% and Lynwood has seen a more than six-fold increase in COVID cases.

"That's alarming," said Henry Barber, owner of Classic Bowl in Morton Grove. "I was hoping we were on the downhill side of this as more people get vaccinated."

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Suburban Cook County Health officials are eyeing more COVID restrictions in the coming weeks if cases and hospitalizations continue to climb.

Barber said business was just starting to pick back up at Classic Bowl and patrons are hopeful it can stay that way.

"It's been hard to manage, hard to plan for, and we really don't know what to expect from business moving forward," Barber said.

"We didn't see each other at all during the pandemic so this is our only way to get together," bowler Sue Lysy said.

If cases don't level off in the coming days, officials would consider reducing indoor bar and restaurant capacity, which is currently at the lesser of 50% or 50 people.

Retail, large events and spectator sports - even those held outdoors - could also see capacity reductions.

Ryan Tracy, owner of Off the Wall Cafe in Park Ridge, is asking everyone to do their part to keep businesses thriving. Especially in Park Ridge, where Cook County data shows cases have jumped 120% in the past two weeks.

"It's just kind of rough to see the continued mitigation come directly at our industry," Tracy said.

And with Chicago and suburban Cook so interconnected, similar trends are being seen in the city.

"We are in communication with the city of Chicago," Rubin said. "We want to be in probably close lock step with them, and so we would be in discussions with them if anything were to be advanced."

Chicago officials remain cautious.

"We're going to see," Chicago Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwardy said Tuesday. "Assuming that things don't completely take off, my preference would be not to have to dial back."

In addition to cases, hospitalizations, and test positivity, officials will also look at hospital capacity. Fortunately, Cook County is not in the warning zone right now in terms of the number of beds available.
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