Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike speaks at Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s daily press conference on May 2, 2020. | Photo: Colin Boyle/My Block, My Hood, My City.

State health officials announced on Friday that Lake County is among 28 other counties at “warning level” for coronavirus risk and are urging residents to take precautions to prevent spreading the virus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 29 Illinois counties are now at warning level: Boone, Bureau, Clinton, Coles, Cumberland, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Henry, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Pulaski, Randolph, Rock Island, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Warren, Williamson, Will.

The IDPH said that the reasons for counties reaching warning levels vary.

Some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with college parties, weddings, large gatherings, bars and clubs, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home.

“Cases connected to schools are beginning to be reported. General transmission of the virus in the community is also increasing,” officials said.

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The IDPH also said that officials are seeing people that are not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings.

The IDPH uses eight indicators when determining a county’s COVID-10 activity.

Those indicators include the new cases per 100,000 people, number of deaths, weekly test positivity, ICU availability, weekly emergency department visits, weekly hospital admissions, tests performed and clusters.

Lake County has two of its eight indicators at warning level, which includes the number of new cases per 100,000 and the number of deaths.

The Lake County Health Department said that there were 95 new cases per 100,000 people reported in the last week in the county, compared to 82 new cases the previous week.

There were 10 new deaths in the county in the last week, up from five deaths the week before.

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Cases among people ages 19-25 have driven the increase in recent weeks, including cases at Naval Station Great Lakes. The target established by the state is less than 50 cases per 100,000 people.

The target established by the state is for deaths to either decrease or remain stable.

The number of deaths in Lake County decreased steadily from mid-June to mid-July. The number remained relatively stable, averaging less than five deaths per week for seven weeks before last week’s increase.

“These signs of increasing COVID-19 risk in Lake County should be a wake-up call heading into Labor Day weekend,” said Mark Pfister, Executive Director of the Lake County Health Department.

“We need everyone to wear a mask, wash their hands often, and watch their distance. Reconsider your plans if they include risky activities and gatherings. If we follow these basic precautions consistently, we can slow the spread of COVID-19,” Pfister said.

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Besides cases reported at Naval Station Great Lakes, the Lake County Health Department is currently investigating 24 COVID-19 outbreaks reported in a variety of settings since August 17.

An outbreak is defined as at least one confirmed case plus a suspected case within a congregate living facility, or two or more linked cases in another setting.

“Recent investigations by our Communicable Disease team show increases in cases linked to private gatherings,” said Dr. Sana Ahmed, Medical Epidemiologist at the Lake County Health Department.

“Remember, don’t let your guard down just because you are around people you trust—your friends, co-workers, and even family members. Take precautions every single time you are with others who don’t live in your household,” Ahmed said.