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COVID-19 restrictions, including indoor dining ban, ‘may very well’ return soon in suburban Cook County, public health official says
Chicago Tribune - 4/3/2021
Cook County’s public health leader on Saturday said the suburbs could soon return to previous COVID-19 restrictions as the region grapples with what appears to be the start of a third coronavirus wave.
Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health that guides COVID-19 response in most of the suburbs, sounded the alarm in a call with reporters following a rising caseload that began in March. As a result, suburban Cook County might again see an indoor dining ban or the gathering limit curtailed from the current cap at 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer, Rubin said.
“We may very well have to clamp down within a matter of days,” Rubin said. “I’m not promising that one way or the other.”
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The warning comes as suburban Cook County recorded a seven-day average of daily cases at 498, a spike mostly driven by the 20s, 30s, 50s and 40s age groups, in that order, according to this week’s figures. The positivity rate was 5% as of last week, creeping toward the 8% benchmark that last fall shut down indoor dining, among other things. But the higher rates reported among young adults — 6% for those under 20 — is “extremely worrisome,” Rubin said.
The numbers mirror Chicago’s, where the positivity rate was 4.9% as of this week’s data and daily average cases were at 570 — a 44% increase from last week.
With the Easter holiday weekend upon us, Rubin urged residents to gather outdoors instead of indoors, and to heed masking and 6-feet social distancing guidelines. Like Chicago, the county previously loosened outdoor gathering limits in order to encourage socializing in a safer setting than indoors.
“We are in the beginnings of another surge,” Rubin said. “Maybe this is as high as we’ll go. … We can’t say. It’s very, very hard to predict.”
Rubin said contact tracing and other data remains inconclusive at this point about where the recent COVID-19 outbreaks stem from, but historically indoor activities have sparked coronavirus waves. That includes private parties, weddings and other large celebrations.
With more than 80% of residents 65 or older having gotten at least the first dose of the vaccine, Rubin said there is some relief that those people are seeing less worrisome COVID-19 rates for now. During the fall surge, trends pointed to younger adults getting sick first and transmitting the virus to older people, she said.
Still, Rubin said everyone needs to remain vigilant despite the “real phenomena” of “COVID fatigue,” which is people becoming weary and less cautious of social distancing after a year of restrictions. That means there is now a race between a potential third surge and vaccination efforts, she said.
“People are thinking, ‘Oh, OK now I can finally go out, and I can do what I want, and I can take my mask (off).” Rubin said. “COVID fatigue is a real problem. … The bottom line is people have to wear masks, but we also have to try to provide safe places and safe ways for people to feel connected to others without putting each other at risk. And the big way of doing that frankly is with vaccination.”
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