As Illinois reported 9,469 more coronavirus cases and 125 deaths Tuesday, officials said they’re “cautiously optimistic” the state’s massive viral resurgence might finally be leveling off — but warned that any progress will be wiped out if families don’t cancel plans for holiday gatherings this week.
“Thanksgiving this year needs to be different,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “To those who haven’t yet changed your plans, the doctors are asking all of us to skip the big group dinner this year. The vaccines that seem to be on the horizon can’t help you if you get sick now.”
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike cautioned that “without even knowing it, you could be putting your friends and family, or yourself in grave danger.”
“We have to accept what we’re dealing with: a global pandemic, the likes of which no one has seen before. That does deserve a change from the norm,” Ezike said.
The latest cases reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health were detected among 97,323 tests, decreasing the average statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 10.4%, its lowest point since Nov. 7.
Tuesday’s caseload, while still more than double the state’s springtime high, also marked the first time in almost three weeks that Illinois has logged fewer than 10,000 cases for two consecutive days.
“The increase has been a little bit slower than last week... I want to be cautiously optimistic, but I don’t want to put too much out there,” Ezike said. “I know more people are trying to be more careful, and so I hope that’s what’s reflected here.”
Regardless of any marginal signs of potential improvement, “our hospitals are still under siege by this latest upswing of COVID cases,” Pritzker said.
As of Monday night, 6,134 beds across the state were occupied by coronavirus patients, meaning about one of every four hospital patients across the state are infected. That’s down slightly from an all-time high of 6,175 coronavirus patients who were hospitalized last weekend.
Hospitals have been treating at least 6,000 COVID-19 patients for six straight nights. That number topped 5,000 only once during the state’s first surge in the spring.
Of those currently admitted, 1,203 patients are receiving intensive care and 668 are using ventilators, officials said.
As a result of the unprecedented surge in coronavirus hospitalizations, daily death numbers have been on the rise for over a month. The latest 125 victims included 61 Chicago-area residents.
With 1,929 coronavirus deaths so far this month, the state has averaged about 81 deaths per day. That’s up more than double from 34 per day this time last month — underscoring the official warning to keep the family gatherings virtual this year.
“We just don’t want this Thanksgiving to be a tragedy, and have every Thanksgiving after that mark the anniversary of when a loved one was infected, and maybe even worse,” Ezike said. “Let’s do it differently in 2020.”
Since March, nearly 10 million coronavirus tests have been administered in the state, with about 674,000 people confirmed to carry the virus and 11,677 of those people dying.