Illinois health officials reported 12,022 new coronavirus cases and 131 more deaths on Thanksgiving Day amid worries that family gatherings over the holiday might spark another surge in cases.
Currently at 11,963 total deaths and 697,489 total cases, Illinois is on track to breach over 12,000 deaths and 700,000 cases by Friday, and it could get worse if people disregard the warnings of medical experts for their Thanksgiving celebrations.
The average statewide positivity rate fell slightly to 10.3%, up from 10.6% on Wednesday, as over 107,000 people were tested in Illinois over the past 24 hours, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Chicago’s positivity rate stands at 12.4%. Since March 1, the city has 3,355 coronavirus deaths out of 152,908 total cases.
Officials nationwide have raised concerns about the spread of COVID-19 at family gatherings for Thanksgiving, and have pleaded with the public to forego travel or large dinners this year.
“Even if you test negative, it’s possible that you were in fact exposed,” Governor J.B. Pritzker had said Wednesday. “This is not the year to have everybody over at Grandma’s house. … Every day we throw caution to the wind, even if it’s a holiday, is a day we backtrack on any progress that we’ve made for our health care workers.”
A rise in cases after the holiday weekend would erase the slight progress that has been made in leveling off the coronavirus’ second surge, which saw a rapid, alarming spike towards the end of October and into November.
“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,” Illinois Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike had said Tuesday. “I know more people are trying to be more careful, and so I hope that’s what’s reflected here.”
Illinois hospitals, however, are still feeling the full brunt of the pandemic. As of Wednesday night, 6,032 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 1,224 people were in the intensive care unit.
Ezike said the state won’t begin to notice a spike in cases due to Thanksgiving gatherings for at least a week, but urged residents to prioritize the health of their family over their desire to get together.
“While it will look different and perhaps not at all how we want, let’s try to make this upcoming holiday season one of cheer and not one of fear for more COVID-19 illnesses and lives lost that could have been prevented,” she said Wednesday.