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Another 14,612 cases of COVID-19, 168 deaths — but Pritzker sees possible ‘pause in our upward movement’

‘We continue to see concerning trends statewide in our hospitalization data, but in the most recent two or three days we’ve seen a hint of leveling in new cases and positivity rates in most of our regions.’

A phlebotomist draws blood for a coronavirus antibody test in May in the parking lot of St. Rosalie Catholic Parish in Harwood Heights.
A phlebotomist draws blood for a coronavirus antibody test in May in the parking lot of St. Rosalie Catholic Parish in Harwood Heights.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday the state is beginning to see “a hint of leveling” in new coronavirus cases and test positivity rates even as Illinois logged its second highest daily case count and its third highest death toll.

But he and health officials warned, no matter what the numbers might suggest, they provide no justification for Illinois residents to tuck into crowded Thanksgiving dinners with invited guests.

“The Thanksgiving holiday has to be celebrated like none other, but it’s not forever,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the state’s department of public health said during Thursday’s briefing on the virus.

“I’d like to remind everyone that this is a time-limited sacrifice,” Ezike said. “The more we can reduce the spread of the virus now then, when a safe and effective vaccine does come out — and it looks like it may be coming soon —the quicker we can then get back to normal. Please let’s do what we know is right. We’re almost there.”

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike during a daily COVID-19 update last month.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike during a daily COVID-19 update earlier this month.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

One week before the Thanksgiving holiday, state health officials reported another 14,612 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 168 deaths, as the coronavirus continues to spread through the state.

That daily caseload is eclipsed only by the 15,415 reported last week on a day when the state reported more new cases than any other state in the nation had ever logged in a single day throughout eight months of the pandemic.

The 168 deaths is the most since May when the state reported 191, just eight days after logging 176.

This week, the number of people being treated in Illinois hospitals for COVID-19 crossed the 6,000 mark.

As of Wednesday night, 6,037 Illinois hospital patients were being treated for the virus. Of that number, 1,192 were in intensive care units, and 587 were on ventilators.

“We continue to see concerning trends statewide in our hospitalization data, but in the most recent two or three days we’ve seen a hint of leveling in new cases and positivity rates in most of our regions,” Pritzker said. “It’s too early at this point to determine if this stabilizing of the average is a meaningful trend or an anomaly, but we’re glad to at least have a pause in our upward movement.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker updates the media during his daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center earlier this month.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker updates the media during his daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center earlier this month.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

In addition to wearing masks, maintaining distance and getting a flu shot, Pritzker also asked state residents to donate blood if they could. The governor said blood collection is “especially low around the holidays in normal times, and then add a pandemic on top of that — we need your help.”

On Wednesday, health officials reported the coronavirus is now the third-leading cause of death in Illinois this year — 11,178 people have died from the virus, more than those killed by strokes and accidents in the state combined.

Only heart disease and cancer are ahead of the virus, according to Pritzker’s office.

Thursday’s report came a day before the state enters Tier 3 of Pritzker’s mitigation plan:

• Museums, theaters and casinos across Illinois will be closed in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

• Capacity limits will be slashed to 25% at big box stores and other retailers.

• Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain limited to 50% capacity.

Those Tier 3 resurgence mitigations take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Pritzker has said his enhanced guidelines boil down to a simple idea: “If you don’t need to do it, don’t.”

Outside of things people must leave their homes for, such as going to school or work or picking up groceries, “we’re asking everyone to stay home as much as you can,” Pritzker said.

“This is a temporary thing that we can do to reduce the spread of this virus in our communities,” Pritzker said. “That will give our health care workers some relief, and ensure that there will be hospital beds and doctors and nurses available for emergencies.”

The guidelines are intended to stave off another stay-at-home order like the one that shut down most of the state economy in the spring, but whether or not the state sees another stay-at-home order will depend largely on case counts and other metrics, Pritzker said.