FILE - Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health, 1-30-2020

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Chicago.

(The Center Square) – State health officials on Friday reported 11 counties in Illinois reached "warning level" metrics for the spread of COVID-19.

A county reaches the warning level after an increase in two or more COVID-19 risk indicators from the state’s COVID-19 Resurgence Mitigation plan, according to a news release from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The 11 counties are Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair and White.

The counties reported COVID-19 outbreaks linked to business operations and high-risk activities. Those include school graduation ceremonies, a rise in cases among late teens and 20s, parties and social gatherings, people going to bars, long-term care outbreaks, clusters of cases associated with restaurants and churches, and sports events including tournaments, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited several of the hot spots in Illinois this week along with Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike to meet with local leaders and health officials. In public remarks, they emphasized the need for wearing face masks, social distancing and hand washing. They also encouraged making decisions that would help reduce the spread of the virus, such as avoiding large gatherings and staying out of crowded bars. 

“We’re at a danger point,” the governor said at a news conference in Peoria on Thursday.

Pritzker said if the COVID-19 metrics continue to increase, the regions would have to be move backward and adopt mitigation strategies such as closing bars and further limiting capacity at restaurants.

Pritzker and Ezike pushed local officials to enforce state mandates such as the use of face masks in places where social distancing is not possible.

Health officials said Friday that some local leaders recently took steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged from China in late 2019.

They cited the mayor of Springfield, who is now requiring employees in bars to wear face masks. Employees who don't could face fines. In Perry County, hospitals and nursing homes suspended visitors. In Jackson County, the state’s attorney is allowing a local food ordinance to be used to enforce COVID-19 rules at restaurants and bars.

County-level COVID-19 metrics are available at the department's website

Regional Editor

Brett Rowland has worked as a reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He most recently served as news editor of the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He previously held the same position at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb.