Country Club Hills, Thornton among Black towns with jump in COVID-19 cases

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Pritzker bans indoor dining in bars and restaurants in Kane, DuPage and Will counties

Crusader Staff Report

Country Clubs Hills, Thornton and Calumet City are among Black towns in the Chicago metro area that experienced big jumps in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, according to the October 4 report by the Cook County Health Department.

The data may indicate that the coronavirus is spreading again during a new surge of cases in these Black towns.

A Crusader analysis of the latest information shows nine predominately Black municipalities or towns with large Black populations that have positivity rates over 50 percent as of October 20. The figures are at least eight times higher than Cook County’s positivity rate of 6.7 percent.

Thornton Township has the highest positivity rate, which is the percentage of new cases from a rolling period over 14 days. Although the exact number of cases may be low, the positivity rate indicates how much the virus is spreading by the number of new cases in a city, town or region.

According to the Cook County data, Thornton had an increase of 188 percent after reporting 12 cases on October 4. During the same period, Country Club Hills also had 12 cases, for a 146 percent increase.

Calumet City had a 131 percent increase after reporting 69 cases. In Blue Island, COVID-19 cases increased by 96.5 percent with 41 new infections. In Alsip, COVID-19 cases increased by 68.6 percent with 27 new infections. There were 68 new cases in Chicago Heights, which was a 63.9 percent increase there. Matteson experienced a 62.2 percent increase after 21 new cases emerged.

Elgin, which has the highest number of overall cases with 1,704, experienced just a 7.14 percent increase with 32 new infections.

Along with Elgin, Chicago Heights and Calumet City lead the group with the second and third highest overall number of COVID-19 cases with 1,288 and 1,208 infections, respectively.

A new report on Cook County Towns was scheduled to be released on Wednesday, October 21, but was unavailable by press time for the Crusader’s print edition.

Blacks in Cook County who have been infected by the virus number 8,949, compared to 16,428 Hispanics and 16,437 whites. About 2,007 Cook County residents have died from the disease. That data does not include Chicago, where Black residents make up 1,276 of the city’s 3,018 deaths.

The data comes as Blacks in Cook County have the highest hospitalization rate, more than any other ethnic group. Cook County data show that since the outbreak began in March, 665 Blacks were hospitalized with the disease out of 1,556 patients.

Despite the big increase in Black towns, Cook County is not among counties that on Tuesday, October 20, was slapped with new restrictions by Governor JB Pritzker.

Starting Friday, October 23, indoor service at restaurants and bars will halt in DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, and Will counties due to rising coronavirus positivity rates that triggered the state to tighten restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

All bars and restaurants in those regions must close by 11 p.m., and all patrons must be seated at outdoor tables, according to the mitigation plan. Additionally, gatherings must be limited to 25 people or 25 percent of a room’s overall capacity.

Pritzker made the announcement Tuesday, October 20, during his afternoon press briefing on the pandemic — those briefings are now set to take place each weekday afternoon as they did in the spring.

Pritzker said there are “piles of studies” showing that bars and restaurants are causing the spread of the virus. Likewise, Illinois Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said contact tracing efforts in the state have identified bars and restaurants as among the top sources of COVID-19 spread.

Region 5 in southern Illinois, which includes 20 counties, will begin operating under stricter mitigations starting Thursday, October 22; they [stricter mitigations] were imposed earlier this month in Region 1, which includes Rockford and Galena.

While cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been steadily rising across the state over the past week, Pritzker ruled out another stay-at-home order at this time, saying officials are focusing on addressing the situation at a regional level.

“The pandemic is not over – not by a long shot,” said Dr. Justin Macariola-Coad, interim chief medical officer at Advocate Sherman Hospital. “Wisconsin is already surging, and northern Illinois is likely next.”

On Tuesday, Illinois officials reported 3,714 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 41 virus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to 350,875 cases and 9,277 deaths.

As of October 20, The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate was 5.5 percent, up a full percentage point from the rate of 4.5 percent reported a week ago, according to IDPH.

“We have a deadly virus that is still prevalent throughout Illinois,” Ezike said, calling for residents to work together to defeat the virus by wearing masks, watching their distance, getting flu shots and washing their hands often.

As of Monday night, 2,261 patients in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19 and, of those, 489 were in intensive care units and 195 were on ventilators, according to IDPH data.

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