Illinois surpasses 12K coronavirus deaths, 700K cases

It only took nine days for the state to pass its latest troubling milestones, after the death toll surpassed 11,000 and the case tally eclipsed 600,000 Nov. 18.

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Rush University Medical Center staff collect nasopharyngeal swab samples to test people for the coronavirus last week at the hospital’s drive-thru testing site.

Rush University Medical Center staff collect nasopharyngeal swab samples to test people for the coronavirus last week at the hospital’s drive-thru testing site.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 has killed 12,029 Illinois residents while spreading to at least 705,063 people, according to the latest figures released by public health officials Friday.

It only took nine days for the state to pass its latest troubling milestones, after the death toll surpassed 11,000 and the case tally eclipsed 600,000 Nov. 18.

The virus has claimed almost 2,300 lives this month alone and is the currently the state’s third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Forty-one Chicago-area victims were among the latest 66 deaths that officials have attributed to the virus.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike have expressed cautious optimism that the state might be easing down from a dizzying autumn resurgence.

The latest 7,574 coronavirus cases reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health are the fewest logged in a day since Nov. 4, but that’s because laboratories processed the second-fewest tests they have in a day since then (77,130) as a result of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Still, that was enough to lower the state’s average positivity rate over the last week to 10.1%, the lowest that infection indicator has been in three weeks.

In another potentially encouraging sign, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients decreased by about 200 from Wednesday to Thursday night, when 5,829 beds were occupied.

That’s still more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than during any night of the first wave of the pandemic, but numbers have slowly declined since Illinois hit an all-time high a week ago at 6,175 occupied beds.

Other hospital indicators are still hovering near record highs, with 1,215 coronavirus patients in intensive care units and 698 on ventilators.

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Chicago’s positivity rate has slowly and steadily declined over the last week along with the 10 other regions of the state, with the city now down to 12.4% positivity.

Health officials will be watching those numbers closely for potential increases in the coming weeks due to transmission among families at holiday gatherings. It would take at least a week for a potential spike to appear in the data, officials have said.

Since March, almost 10.3 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois, with about 5.6% of the state population confirmed to carry the virus.

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