Pritzker not easing COVID restrictions on St. Clair County, citing issues with neighboring counties

Illinois

ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has responded to repeated calls to ease COVID-19 restrictions in St. Clair County.

The restrictions include a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars, a ban on indoor visits at long-term care facilities, and a 25-person limit on all gatherings at events from weddings to birthday parties.

His answer was again “no” on Wednesday.

His reasons for that actually lie outside the county.

St. Clair County is part of the state’s “Region 4,” which has been subject to tighter restrictions because of coronavirus positivity rates.

County officials have been asking to stand alone and be taken out of Region 4.

In explaining why he won’t do it, Pritzker mentioned continued high positivity rates in neighboring counties from which travel to and from St. Clair County is common.

Neighboring Madison County, which, along with St. Clair, are the two largest Illinois counties in the St. Louis region, seems the most likely culprit.

Though St. Clair County’s 7-day positivity rate has been “at” or below 6 percent, for the past week, Madison County’s has surged from a low of 6 percent to more than 9 percent for the week ending Tuesday.

The number of deaths and new cases have also surged in Madison County over the same period, with 18 deaths and 413 new cases.

Overall, Madison County reported 141 COVID-related deaths with 5,835 cases through Tuesday. St. Clair County reported 191 deaths and 7,490 cases overall but in the past two-and-a-half months, deaths have more than doubled for Madison County. There were 70 on July 8 after roughly the first four months of the pandemic. There are now more than five times the number of total cases compared to July 8.

Eight of those 18 recent deaths in Madison County dated to last month but there was a delay in reporting the numbers to the Madison County Health Department, a spokeswoman said.

Pandemic fatigue and frustration were likely setting in, she said. She urged continued patience to win out over incurrent inconveniences like wearing masks and adhering to social distancing.

Residents had actually been making great strides in driving the positivity rates lower, she said.

Pritzker agreed, saying, “We’re getting close” to being able to ease restrictions in Region 4.

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