COVID restrictions may return in suburban Cook Co. if cases continue to rise, health officials fear

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Suburban Cook County may be on the brink of having new restrictions imposed after health officials reported a sharp increase in COVID-19 case numbers.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported more than 2,800 new confirmed and probably cases of COVID-19 with hundreds of those in Cook County.

There are fears numbers of cases will be higher after Easter. County leaders warn that if this upward trend does not change, new restrictions could be coming.

Officials are working to figure out what is causing this spike while threatening the possibility of returning restrictions. Cook County Health said that could mean clamping down on indoor activities like going to restaurants and fitness clubs. Meanwhile, officials are asking people to stay outdoors with gatherings, masked up and socially distant as much as possible.

"We've seen over 600 new cases in suburban Cook in our jurisdiction alone," said Dr. Rachel Rubin. "And so that means that we are in the beginnings of another surge."

Now, county health officials said the uptick in cases could translate to new restrictions imposed if those numbers do not go down.

Cook County Health said the county is on the cusp of another surge. Recent data showed noticeable increases in new cases among people their 20s and 30s, and the positivity rate nearly doubled from the past weeks.

According to recent data, the most significant rise in cases is among the 20s and 30 age group, and the positivity rate nearly doubled from weeks past.

"Our overall positivity rate, I think, is now maybe about five, we were down to three and this is a big problem," Dr. Rubin said.

Despite the expansion of ongoing vaccination efforts, the rising case numbers have county officials contemplating what needs to be done.

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"We may very well have to clamp down within a matter of days. I'm not promising that one way or another," Dr. Rubin said. "We need to evaluate exactly what kinds of activities and movements are really pushing this surge."

That could mean bringing back restrictions on businesses.

"We need to continue to be safe and those are really the messages and if we need to clamp down more on our [mitigation], you know, back off a little bit on indoor kinds of activities and restaurants and fitness clubs and such like that -- we hope that it won't reach that point that we may need to do that," Dr. Rubin added.

Evanston resident Archie Ong has seen his city go through so many changes over the past year

"It's going to be a major setback, obviously, a lot of the restaurants here are struggling," Ong said. "There's been a number of restaurants that have closed so I hope, I hope it doesn't happen."

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He and his family still stay home for the most part and hopes others who may think the worse is over will do the same.

"People are getting vaccinated and thinking it's safe. I guess it is maybe safe but at the same time I think we shouldn't really relax that much," Ong added.

For now, health officials recommend keeping things outdoors while continuing to mask up and keep distance.
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