6,363 more Illinois coronavirus infections, latest record in statewide surge

The state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate is up to 6.9%, its highest point since June 2.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens during a Pullman neighborhood news conference in 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a Pullman neighborhood news conference Wednesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Illinois set yet another record Thursday with 6,363 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the troubling infection numbers are trending higher “than we ever saw in the spring,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Thursday.

Since the start of the month, daily coronavirus hospitalizations statewide have shot up by 73% and average death counts have increased 82%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

For the first time ever, the state’s seven-day rolling average of new confirmed cases per day has topped 5,000 — and expanded testing numbers don’t account for the October surge. The latest infections were confirmed among 83,056 tests, raising the state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate — a better gauge of how rapidly the virus is spreading — to 6.9%, its highest point since June 2.

“We have a real problem on our hands, and people’s lives hang in the balance,” Pritzker said. “Our cases are rising at a much faster clip than our tests.

“Well meaning, reasonable people can have fair disagreements about how and where to draw lines and connect the dots,” Pritzker said. “But when every single metric in every single corner of our state is trending poorly, we have to take meaningful actions to keep our people safe.”

The state’s staggering viral resurgence has brought more than 102,000 new COVID-19 cases so far this month, about 12,000 more than were reported in Illinois during all of May and June, when the state rose and fell from its initial coronavirus peak.

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Hospitals across the state are now treating the most coronavirus patients they’ve seen since early June, with 3,030 beds occupied as of Wednesday night. That number has been rising steadily since the end of September, to now almost double the number of COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized a month ago.

In the worst days of the first surge in May, hospitals were treating upwards of 4,500 coronavirus patients per night.

Lagging behind those worrisome numbers are an uptick in deaths. Officials on Thursday attributed 56 more deaths to the virus, including a Cook County man in his 40s and 25 other Chicago-area residents.

The state has averaged 41 deaths per day over the last week, compared to 23 this time last month.

Under his coronavirus resurgence plan, Pritzker has implemented “mitigations” like indoor dining bans in regions seeing sustained increases in positivity or hospital admissions. Those mitigations will be in place in nine of the state’s 11 regions by this weekend — including Chicago and all its suburbs — while the two remaining regions are on track to face restrictions next week too.

Numbers will keep getting uglier unless people take social distancing and masking practices more seriously, University of Chicago Medicine epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon said.

“These facts about being indoors without masks are not just true at bars and restaurants. Unfortunately it’s true for any contact we have, including small gatherings in our own homes,” Landon said. “As our cases go up, our bubble needs to get smaller… We flattened the curve in March, because everyone heeded the warnings and kept those contacts to a low number.”

Since March, more than 7.5 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois, with 395,458 people confirmed to carry the virus and 9,675 of those dying.

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