The Illinois COVID-19 death toll for the year crept past 10,000 on Thursday — a “terrible milestone” that Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned could lead to further statewide restrictions to stem the spread of the surging virus.
“Each day we are losing more and more of our neighbors to this virus. That’s not a trend that’s going to turn around,” Pritzker said. “It’s up to us — all of us — to do something to save the next family from tragedy. Because unfortunately, it could easily be yours.”
Pritzker then led a moment of silence for those who have died of the disease. That includes the 97 people whose deaths were announced Thursday – 31 of them in Cook County alone.
The statewide daily total is the highest since the state reported 115 deaths on June 4.
State health officials also reported 9,935 new COVID-19 cases, dwarfing the previous single-day high of 7,899 reported Saturday and more than double the previous longstanding high of 4,015 reached during the spring peak month of May.
“To all Illinoisans, I cannot stress enough the severity of our situation,” Pritzker said. “[The Illinois Department of Public Health] is looking at proposing further regional and statewide restrictions because the rise in cases and hospitalizations is unsustainable.”
COVID-19 infections have skyrocketed in the past month amid a second surge of the virus.
Thursday marked the ninth consecutive day the state has reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases. The state’s total case count has now reached 447,491, with deaths totaling 10,030.
The seven-day statewide positivity rate — an important figure to understand how rapidly the virus is spreading — reached 9.1% on Thursday, up from 6.9% last week, the state public health department reported.
And while the number of tests conducted across the state reached 8 million on Thursday, with an average of 82,000 being done each day, Pritzker warned that “the rate of growth in our positivity is far outpacing our growth in testing.”
Pritzker noted that hospitals across Illinois had an average of 3,400 COVID-19 patients, climbing from 2,700 last week and 1,500 at the start of October. The number of patients either hospitalized in intensive care units or requiring ventilators has also jumped.
As of Wednesday, all 11 of the state’s regions were operating under tighter state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, including bans on indoor services at bars and restaurants.
Those mitigations were put in place after each region saw severe increases in positivity, ranging from a low of 10% in Regions 5 and 6 to a high of 15.7% in Region 1, which covers northwestern Illinois.
As Pritzker warned that additional mitigations may be in store, he placed the onus on members of the public and local leaders to act responsibly.
“If local leaders don’t step up, if high-risk industries don’t act accordingly, if families don’t put off that gathering or dinner party, if people don’t wear a mask, we’re heading down a very dark, dark path toward where we were last spring,” said Pritzker. “Let’s not let that happen.”
To that end, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike offered a series of warnings and recommendations about holiday gatherings and travel plans.
“We all want to be with our friends and family for the holidays, but perhaps this holiday — as we have already done for most of 2020 — we are going to have to do it COVID-style, and that means virtual,” she said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady also offered a pandemic update to reporters Thursday, saying the city now has a positivity rate of 10.9% and warning the holidays will tempt people into behavior that could cause cases to spike further.
“Gathering around Thanksgiving is not a safe proposition at this point. ... Traveling is also not a safe proposition,” Arwady said.
“There is not a single person in Chicago who is not at some risk” of COVID, Arwady said, and 70,000 to 105,000 city residents now have “active” COVID cases amid an increase in hospitalizations and intensive care patients.
Chicago cases continue to grow, with case counts doubling every 12 days.
“If we don’t slow this down, we’ll have thousands more cases” by year’s end, Arwady said. The increases cross every ZIP code and all age, race and ethnic groups, though 40- to 49-year-olds are “leading the pack,” she said.
In all, 646 people are in Chicago hospitals with COVID, with 179 in intensive care units and 91 people on ventilators.
“We know how to turn this around,” Arwady said. “We did it before.”