* This is how yesterday started…
Chicago health officials released staggering numbers Tuesday that show just how quickly the coronavirus is spreading in the city, with one estimate indicating that more than 57,000 residents could currently be infected with the virus.
During a weekly press conference discussing the city’s latest travel restrictions, Dr. Allison Arwady, the director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that approximately 8,213 Chicago residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and are currently considered to be “active” cases.
Those numbers are already high, but city health experts fear the virus could be even more widespread than that. According to Arwady, officials believe there could be between five and seven times as many active cases as are currently being reported, due to residents who haven’t been tested or who aren’t showing symptoms.
Gov. JB Pritzker said the mitigations were triggered in Chicago by seven straight days of hospital admission increases and eight consecutive days of rising test positivity. In Chicago, the number of non-ICU patients is up 72% since late September and the number of those in ICU is up 56% since October 1.
Chicago’s top public health official seemed to anticipate the move before the governor’s announcement.
“If the governor makes this decision, we will obviously support it,” Dr. Allison Arwady said earlier on Tuesday. “The numbers that we have seen here give me no reason to think that this is not imminent.”
But the mayor and her top doc were clearly not on the same page. Click here for more on that.
* Heather Cherone at WTTW has some interesting insights…
In July, the Illinois Department of Health published its Restore Illinois Resurgence Plan, which laid out the metrics that would trigger restrictions on nonessential businesses and gatherings.
Pritzker’s actions on Tuesday followed that plan, and it was unclear why Lightfoot and her administration did not understand the metrics it details. […]
Hours after Lightfoot told reporters on Oct. 19 that she didn’t “think there is a cause and effect” between the surge in confirmed cases of the coronavirus and bars and restaurants, Pritzker told the news media he was confident there was a causal relationship between the fast spread of the virus and indoor dining and drinking.
Two days later, Lightfoot acknowledged that the risk of getting COVID-19 is “greatest” at bars and restaurants, “because people gather, they take their masks off, they have a drink, they socialize, they talk.”
* Mitchell Armentrout and Fran Spielman at the Sun-Times…
That group could eventually include more than 7,500 restaurants statewide, according to Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia, who said he raised his estimate to almost a third of the industry that could be sunk in part due to the governor’s “extreme” measures.
“Why the full shutdown? At least let us try 25% capacity,” Toia said. “We know how to do this right — masking, social distancing and sanitizing. Any business doing it right should be kept open, and any one that isn’t should be shut down. We don’t understand why the restaurants are the only ones affected.”
The rules issued by Pritzker, who has cited studies suggesting bars and restaurants are “super spreading” sites, also mean other city gatherings will be limited to 25 people or 25% of room capacity.
The Democratic governor noted Chicago is averaging twice as many COVID-19 hospital admissions per day compared to a month ago, while its average seven-day testing positivity rate has almost doubled since the beginning of October.
* Jamie Munks, Gregory Pratt and Dan Petrella at the Tribune…
Late last month, Lightfoot cited a decrease in COVID-19 cases as she allowed bars that don’t serve food to reopen for indoor drinking. She also eased rules on restaurants, gyms and other retailers, allowing them to increase capacity. The changes were Lightfoot’s attempt to ease the financial burden on Chicago businesses by lifting frequently criticized restrictions.
But they also came as the number of new COVID-19 cases per day was hovering around 300, well above the 200-case threshold the mayor set months ago as a goal before moderating restrictions.
Chicago now is averaging nearly 800 new cases a day, Arwady said. To put it into perspective, she said 400 was a level of concern and 200 was the level the city wanted to stay under.
So, Toia does have a decent point. Chicago restaurants were limited to 25 percent capacity until the end of September, when the mayor upped the cap and then the spread greatly intensified. But whether reverting back to that 25 percent limit would actually drive numbers back down is another story. I hope to ask that question of the governor today.
*** UPDATE *** Inevitable…