‘Numbers going through the roof’ with record-breaking 7,899 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois

More than 117,000 Illinoisans tested positive for COVID-19 in October, surpassing the number of cases logged in all of April and May, when the state rose and fell from its initial pandemic peak.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to medical personnel during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School in the South Chicago neighborhood in July.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to medical personnel during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School in the South Chicago neighborhood in July.

| Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

An astounding 7,899 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Illinois, public health officials said Saturday, taking the state’s coronavirus resurgence to new heights for a third consecutive day and shattering the previous daily record for new cases by nearly 1,000.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the latest dizzying numbers while reporting 46 more deaths have been attributed to the respiratory disease that’s tearing through states across the Midwest this fall.

More than 117,000 people contracted the virus across Illinois in October, accounting for more than a quarter of the 410,300 cases that have piled up over the last eight months.

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October’s count surpassed all the cases logged in April and May combined, when the state rose and fell from its initial pandemic peak.

But the peak of this surge is still nowhere in sight.

“Every day we now see these numbers going through the roof,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday. “This is an extraordinarily dangerous time, and as a result, we must do everything in our power to keep down the infection rate. That means reminding everybody not to have parties in your home, to make sure that you’re keeping your bubbles small.”

The newest cases were confirmed among 92,636 tests, raising the seven-day average positivity rate to 7.5%. Experts use that number to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading. It’s doubled over the last three weeks, and hasn’t been this high since the end of May.

Illinois hospitals are treating the most coronavirus patients they’ve seen since then, too, and the number has been growing steadily — by more than 73% — since the start of October. As of Friday night, 3,228 beds were taken up by COVID-19 patients, with 680 receiving intensive care and 290 using ventilators.

Hospitals outside the Chicago area and collar counties are already seeing numbers similar to those “at the highest point of wave one, and we are not at the peak now,” according to Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

“We are getting into territory that most of these hospitals had never seen before,” she said. “We do predict that there could be shortages in as short as two to four weeks.”

For now, Chicago-area hospitals are “not anywhere close to what the peak was for the first wave,” Ezike said.

The city and suburbs are still feeling the brutal effects, though, accounting for 27 of the state’s latest COVID-19 fatalities. The virus has claimed 9,757 lives since March.

Pritzker’s controversial “mitigation” efforts that include bans on indoor service at bars and restaurants already cover the entire Chicago region, and restrictions will likely cover the entire state by mid-week.

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