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Illinois’ new COVID-19 infections number 1,392, marking third straight day of lower caseloads

The Chicago Department of Public Health also updated its COVID-19 travel quarantine list to include Kentucky. The latest cases were confirmed among 31,363 tests, lowering the state’s testing positivity rate over the last week to 4%.

A man wearing a face mask talks on the phone, at O’Hare Airport’s international terminal in January.
A man wearing a face mask talks on the phone, at O’Hare Airport’s international terminal in January.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

After Illinois closed out last week with a staggering crush of new coronavirus cases, the state on Tuesday tallied a third straight day of relatively low numbers as health officials announced 1,392 more people have tested positive for COVID-19.

That happens to be the average caseload reported by the state since Sunday, over the long Labor Day holiday weekend.

But Illinois has averaged more than 2,000 new cases per day over the last two weeks, thanks to record figures of 5,368 reported Friday — the inflated result of a two-day data processing backlog — and 2,806 cases on Saturday.

The state averaged around 2,300 new cases per day over the worst two-week stretch of the pandemic in mid-May, but that was before the state bolstered its testing operations. Illinois is now testing residents at well over double its rate during the initial COVID-19 peak.

The latest cases were confirmed among 31,363 tests, lowering the state’s testing positivity rate over the last week to 4%. That number, which indicates how quickly the virus is spreading, hovered around 15% in May.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday also announced the virus has killed seven more residents, including a Cook County man in his 30s.

As of Monday night, 1,504 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 343 in intensive care units and 133 on ventilators.

Almost 4.5 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois since March. More than 252,000 have received positive results, and 8,186 have died.

Daily caseloads shrank through June, but they’ve surged throughout the summer since Gov. J.B. Pritzker allowed most businesses to reopen toward the end of that month. Public health officials have pointed to downstate outbreaks and wider transmission among young people.

The Democratic governor’s office is tracking testing positivity rates across 11 regions of the state, including two where indoor dining has been banned in an effort to contain COVID-19 flareups. The downstate Metro East region is still at 9.8% positivity more than three weeks after Pritzker’s health team imposed “mitigations,” but the Will-Kankakee county region in Chicago’s far southwest suburbs has dipped below the state’s 8% threshold to 7.4% less than two weeks after the state intervened there.

Chicago has held steady at 5.2% positivity. Suburban Cook County is at 6.1%.

The Chicago Department of Public Health updated its COVID-19 travel quarantine list to include Kentucky, meaning visitors or residents returning from the Bluegrass State are required to hunker down for two weeks upon arrival in Chicago.

California and Puerto Rico were removed from the mandatory quarantine list as that state and territory fell below the city’s coronavirus “hot spot” threshold infection rate of 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents on a weekly rolling average.

But the quarantine order still applies to 21 states — more than a third of the nation — including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.

The remaining six states on the list have improved to the point they could be removed next week: Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina and Hawaii.

Never mind the fact Illinois meets the city’s own criteria for a quarantine order, with a statewide infection rate of 17 new cases per 100,000 residents. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said the order is more “about educating people to understand the risk factors” than it is about handing out fines of up to $500 per day.