College parties, crowded bars help spread COVID-19 among young people
SPRINGFIELD — The novel coronavirus is worse in southern Illinois than it is in the Chicago area, and college parties thrown by returning students risk exacerbating the spread of COVID-19, Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday during an appearance at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
“I’m here today because the COVID-19 pandemic, which once seemed tame in Carbondale and throughout the entire region, is now surging here,” Pritzker said at the SIU student center. “It’s worse than in Chicago, and I’ll be frank, if we don’t see some change here the virus will cause some businesses to close and an increasing percentage of people to get sick, and some will even die.”
Pritzker said Jackson County, where Carbondale is located, is one of 11 counties in warning territory according to state metrics.
Southern Illinois’ Region 5 of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan had a test positivity rate of 7.3% as of Aug. 1, while the Region 4 Metro East area on the Missouri border had a rate of 7.2%. Those were pushing the 8% threshold that would prompt state action to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The state reported an additional 1,471 confirmed cases of the virus Tuesday among 42,598 test results reported in the previous 24 hours. That drove the statewide seven-day positivity rate to 3.9% – a decrease of one-tenth of a percentage point since Monday – and made for a one-day positivity rate of 3.5%.
Mitigation efforts also would kick in if a region hits the 8% positivity rate for three days, or if the positivity rate increases for seven of 10 days along with a sustained seven-day increase in hospital admissions. Such efforts include placing some sectors of the economy back under the restrictions seen in previous phases of the state’s reopening plan.
Pritzker said it is important for local governments to take mitigation action as cases rise. He commended the Carbondale City Council for passing a face mask mandate that could allow for fines.
The other regions range from a 3.1% percent positivity rate in eastern Illinois to 6.4% in Kankakee and Will counties. Region 11, which includes all of Chicago, had a 4.9% positivity rate.
Pritzker warned that even though the virus has a 95% recovery rate for those 42 days removed from a positive diagnosis, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, health effects can often be long lasting, even for those who were otherwise healthy.
“We also need all of our residents to take this seriously and to protect themselves,” he said. “No matter how young and invincible you might think you are, the largest increase in cases is occurring among young people in their 20s and below. This virus is dangerous no matter how young you are because of the long-term damage it can cause you.”
Jackson County Health Department Administrator Bart Hagston said that over the past 21 days Jackson County saw 287 new cases of COVID-19, representing 44% of the county’s total cases to date.
“Almost 70% of those new cases during this timeframe have been in young adults, those in their teens and late 20s,” Hagston said.
Some of the outbreaks in Jackson County originated at parties held by students coming back early for orientations and athletics, the governor said.
“I know that coming back to college is a celebratory time for so many young people, but I can’t emphasize enough that we need everybody to do their part in the fight against this pandemic,” Pritzker said. “Large gatherings and large unmasked gatherings in particular are a no go.”
An additional 19 COVID-19-positive individuals were reported to have died in the previous 24 hours, bringing the state death count since the pandemic began to 7,545 among 184,712 confirmed cases.