By Bob Uphues
A 67-year-old woman who died on Jan. 11 became the fourth North Riverside resident to die from complications of COVID-19, the Cook County Medical Examiner reported on Monday, and the first since last July.
Meanwhile, the Cook County Department of Public Health reported 15 new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in North Riverside for the week ending on the morning of Jan. 12, bringing the total number since the pandemic began last March to 426.
That weekly total was less than the 23 reported the week before, but North Riverside has seen its cases numbers seesaw during the past month, giving no clear indication of which way numbers are trending.
In Riverside, the number of new cases remained almost flat, with 28 reported for the week ending on the morning of Jan. 12, compared to an average of 27.6 cases during the three-week period preceding it.
Since the pandemic began, 701 Riverside residents have been reported confirmed or probable for COVID-19 and three residents have died from the disease.
The number of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases swelled to 1,455 in Brookfield after 82 new cases were reported by the Cook County Department of Public Health for the week ending on the morning of Jan. 12.
Eleven residents of Brookfield have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began last March, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner, with seven of those fatalities coming since Nov. 26, 2020.
Governor may loosen restrictions
Some regions of the state could see loosened COVID-19 restrictions as early as Friday as some counties have already transitioned to the next phase of vaccine distribution, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Jan. 11.
Although the state remains in Phase 1A of its vaccine distribution plan, some communities which have substantially completed Phase 1A have moved to the early stages of Phase 1B.
"We want to make sure any available vaccine is administered quickly to the priority groups that we've laid out," Pritzker said. "Let's get those out to Phase 1B people. ... Even though we haven't moved everybody into the next phase, we don't want any of these vaccines sitting around."
Those in Phase 1A, who are receiving vaccines, include health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B would extend vaccine priority to non-health-care essential workers and residents age 65 or older.
This early transition has been authorized by the Illinois Department of Public Health, but local health departments determine the phase transition on a county-by-county basis, depending on Phase 1A progress. It is not clear which counties have already started Phase 1B.
Pritzker said he expects to make a formal announcement later this week regarding when the entire state will move into Phase 1B.
"But I want to urge patience," Pritzker said. "Phase 1B will take many weeks to complete."
Tier 3 mitigations will begin to be lifted come Friday in regions that meet certain metrics. The timeline represents a 14-day incubation period following New Year's Day.
In order to transition from Tier 3 to Tier 2, a region must experience a positivity rate below 12 percent for three consecutive days. It must also have greater than 20 percent available intensive care unit and hospital bed availability and declining COVID hospitalizations for 7 of the last 10 days.
Regions began hitting Tier 2 restrictions in November, with statewide Tier 3 mitigations announced on Nov. 20. No region has been able to move back to Tier 1 restrictions after reaching Tier 2.
Even in Tier 2, bans on indoor dining and drinking at bars and restaurants will continue, although locally the ban has been flouted widely with few apparent consequences.
Local officials continue be reluctant to impose any enforcement action on establishments who defy the ban, but some have also been cited by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
"The village of Brookfield, along with most other Chicagoland suburbs, have taken the approach that there should be no strict enforcement of such an order," Brookfield Village President Kit Ketchmark said in an email. "Instead in our case, when our police department witnesses or receives a complaint of restaurants/bars operating in violation of the order, we issue a notice to the restaurant/bar of the order, and in the case of repeat cases, the village notifies the county and state health departments informing them that certain businesses are violating the order."
All of those receiving citations from the county are in Brookfield and include Sebastian's Ale and Whiskey House, Brookfield Breakfast, Phil's Sports Bar and Grill, Ryan's Public House, Cordial Inn, Gosia's Coffee Shop and Mary's Morning Mix-up.
According to Don Bolger, a spokesman for the Cook County Department of Public Health, penalties for establishments that continue to defy the ban "may include fines and other actions following due process."
Four of the seven establishments, said Bolger, have received violation notices via certified mail. If an establishment is found to be out of compliance after a re-inspection, Bolger said, "We will send a second notice to the facility and refer the matter to the State's Attorney."
The statewide COVID-19 rolling positivity rate remained below 8 percent for the second consecutive day Monday at 7.6 percent. Illinois reported 4,776 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 53 additional virus-related deaths.
The state is reporting a total of 1,033,526 cases with a total of 17,627 deaths across the state's 102 counties.
Grace Barbic of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.