H-F region moves to less restrictive Tier 2 COVID-19 mitigation guidelines

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H-F region moves to less restrictive Tier 2 COVID-19 mitigation guidelines

January 19, 2021 - 00:08
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State health officials announced Monday that the Region 10, suburban Chicago, including Homewood and Flossmoor, will move from Tier 3 to the less restrictive Tier 2.

Although COVID-19 infection rates have been steadily improving in recent weeks, a state program that will help increase hospital staffing was credited with enabling the move.

The restrictive mitigation efforts, including bans on indoor dining and limits on occupancy in businesses, were designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 not only to save lives but in order to protect hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

The staffing program allowed the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to adjust its mitigation metrics to reflect the additional hospital capacity. With the change, Regions 8, 9, 10, and 11 will move from the most restrictive Tier 3 to Tier 2. In addition, Region 1 and 6 have met the metrics to move to Tier 1, and Regions 3 and 5 have met the metrics to return to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan.

With this surge staffing program, IDPH and hospital leaders feel confident that metrics can safely move away from utilizing medical/surgical bed limits to move across mitigation tiers, allowing more regions to advance. The adjustment also recognizes the substantial progress the state has made since Nov. 20, 2020, when Tier 3 mitigations were put in place.

“We are pleased to see most of our regions move out of Tier 3 mitigations with this change, and it is critical that we maintain this progress,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  "With new variants of COVID-19 spreading, it is more important than ever to follow the public health guidance that keeps people safe – wear and mask and watch your distance.”

The staffing surge program is a partnership between IDPH, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). 

The program leverages the state’s larger contracting power to engage multiple staffing vendors and create access to a talent pool at greater scale than any individual hospital could achieve. Hospitals with rooms available to increase capacity but lacking the personnel to staff their beds may partner with the state to procure the staff they need. Hospitals that create orders will enter into a contract with the state to access this new staffing pool.

Hospital capacity is expected to remain critical as new variants circulate.  Early studies for the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, have shown the variant may spread more rapidly and easily than what we have seen previously.  Experts are predicting another possible surge due to this new variant in the next several months.  

With variants emerging, it is vital for people to remain vigilant and continue to wear masks, keep at least six feet of distance from others, avoid large gatherings and get vaccinated when they are eligible.  

In order to move to Tier 2 mitigations, a region must meet the following metrics:

1) A test positivity rate less than or equal to 8% and less than 12% for three consecutive days, as measured by the seven-day rolling average.
2) Greater than or equal to 20% available staffed ICU hospital beds for three consecutive days on a seven-day rolling average.
3) A sustained decrease in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a seven-day average.

In order to move to Tier 1 mitigations, a region must meet the following metrics:

1) A test positivity rate between 6.5 and 8% for three consecutive days, as measured by the seven-day rolling average.
2) Greater than or equal to 20% available staffed ICU hospital beds for three consecutive days, on a 7-day rolling average; AND
3) No sustained increase in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a seven-day average.

In order to move to Phase 4, a region must meet the following metrics:

1) A test positivity rate less than or equal to 6.5% for three consecutive days, as measured by the seven-day rolling average.
2) Greater than or equal to 20% available staffed ICU hospital beds for three consecutive days, on a seven-day rolling average.
3) No sustained increase in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a seven-day average.

Information about mitigation and resurgence metrics can be found on the IDPH website at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/regionmetrics.