Another 190 coronavirus deaths push ‘devastating’ Illinois toll past 14,000

Illinois now accounts for almost 5% of all coronavirus deaths in the United States, a figure that will top 300,000 within a week.

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Nurse Jeanette Averett delivers dinner trays in the COVID-19 unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side earlier this year.

Nurse Jeanette Averett delivers dinner trays in the COVID-19 unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side earlier this year.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

COVID-19’s rampage through vulnerable Illinois communities continued unabated Friday as public health officials announced 190 more people have died of the coronavirus.

At least 3,782 people in Illinois have succumbed to the virus over the last month alone, a toll greater than in the previous four months combined.

The latest tally included a Cook County man in his 20s and two people in their 30s, among a total of 106 Chicago-area fatalities.

They brought the state’s pandemic death toll past the 14,000 milestone, now up to 14,050 lives lost. Another thousand deaths are considered to have been probable but untested viral cases.

Only cancer and heart disease have claimed more lives in Illinois since COVID-19 gripped Illinois nine months ago.

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About 43% of the deaths — 6,954 of them — have been tied to long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Statewide, the recovery rate is 97%.

Illinois now accounts for almost 5% of all coronavirus deaths in the United States. That national figure will top 300,000 within a week.

Experts say the dizzying surge in deaths Illinois is experiencing is the lagging result of case numbers that exploded to record highs a month ago. It takes a few weeks for widespread transmission to develop into the more serious cases that require hospitalization and are more likely to end in tragedy.

Infection rates have declined slightly over the past few weeks, but many more Illinoisans are contracting the virus each day compared to the first wave. Another 9,420 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 among 104,448 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, lowering the average statewide positivity rate to 9.4%.

“If we don’t continue to bring the number of infections down, and the positivity rate down — if we can’t continue that path, we’re going to see these kinds of high levels of death every single day. And it is devastating for all of us,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the mitigations are followed, to make sure that we have a lower number of infections. And to pray.”

Hospitalizations have gradually declined lately as well, though they remained about level from Wednesday to Thursday night, when 5,141 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, with 1,081 receiving intensive care and 635 on ventilators.

Those figures are still much worse than health care workers faced during the first wave, and health officials worry they could rebound in the wrong direction if families don’t cancel plans for large holiday gatherings.

“We are so fortunate we didn’t get to the point where we had no [available hospital] beds at all,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “But if we don’t keep on this path of trying to wear a mask and stay at home, we could have a big surge.”

Ezike said “we’re already teetering” in some areas, like in downstate Metro East, where only 13 ICU beds were available for the seven-county region Thursday night. “A big surge cannot be handled,” she said.

The “light at the end of the tunnel” is approaching, Ezike said, with the first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine expected to arrive in Illinois within a few days. Shots won’t be available to most residents for several months, so wearing masks and social distancing remain key, she said.

Almost 11.6 million coronavirus tests have been administered in the state since March, and 832,951 people have tested positive.

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