Illinois’ breathtaking COVID-19 resurgence soared to new heights for a second straight day Wednesday as public health officials announced 12,657 new cases of the deadly respiratory disease and the latest 145 deaths attributed to it — the state’s worst daily death toll in almost six months.
Two Cook County men in their 20s and 30s were among 78 Chicago-area residents included in the latest fatality count, which is the state’s highest since 159 deaths were reported May 27, toward the end of Illinois’ first coronavirus wave.
Average daily case counts have more than tripled since then, with the state logging 10,000 or more new cases for six straight days. Wednesday’s total set a new record for the fifth time in a week.
More than 105,000 residents have tested positive for the virus so far this month, already accounting for about 20% of all the nearly 524,000 cases that have piled up throughout eight months of the pandemic.
The newest probable and confirmed cases were detected among 93,464 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, raising the state’s average testing positivity rate over the last week to 12.4%. That number, a gauge of how rapidly the virus is spreading, has almost quadrupled in about a month.
Illinois is now adding cases at the seventh-fastest rate per capita among all states in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
And Illinois hospitals are treating the most coronavirus patients they’ve ever seen. As of Tuesday night, 5,042 beds were taken up by COVID-19 patients statewide — the most occupied on any night of the pandemic.
The numbers of those patients requiring intensive care or ventilators are still lower compared to those during the first wave in spring, but they’ve been rising sharply for a month.
Rising fatalities are the final lagging indicator of a resurgent pandemic, experts say. The state has averaged 72 COVID-19 deaths per day over the last week, two and a half times the rate this time last month.
Since March, the virus has claimed 10,434 Illinois lives.
“I want to remind everybody how deadly this virus is,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “It hasn’t abated. It hasn’t changed. It’s out there.”
The Democratic governor said he’s “certainly looking at statewide mitigations” similar to his springtime stay-at-home order, but placed the onus on local governments to enforce masking, social distancing and crowd limit guidelines to stem the surge.
“Local governments though, right now, if they are not imposing new mitigations and enforcing the ones that are already in place, they’re doing it wrong,” Pritzker said.
Public health officials are urging residents to work from home if possible, participate in essential activities only, avoid “even small gatherings” and stay home as much as possible.