Illinois enters deadliest stretch of coronavirus pandemic so far: 192 more fatalities

More than 3,000 Illinois deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus in the last month alone, almost double the state’s death toll over the entire summer.

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Doctors and nurses tend to a 56-year-old woman suffering from COVID-19 in April at Roseland Community Hospital.

Doctors and nurses tend to a 56-year-old woman suffering from COVID-19 in April at Roseland Community Hospital.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Illinois has fallen into its deadliest stretch of the coronavirus pandemic so far as public health officials on Thursday announced COVID-19 has claimed 192 more lives while spreading to another 10,959 people.

The latest daily death toll is second only to the all-time high 238 coronavirus deaths reported Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

While the figures from both Wednesday and Thursday included deaths delayed in reporting from the long Thanksgiving weekend, the state has averaged 124 deaths a day since the holiday — about one death every 12 minutes.

That tops the worst seven-day stretch of the first coronavirus wave in the spring, during which the state lost, on average, 117 residents to COVID-19 every day.

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More than 3,000 Illinois deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus in the last month alone, almost double the state’s death toll over the entire summer, as fatalities surge to record highs across the nation.

“It’s just devastating for the country, it’s devastating for the state of Illinois, for all of us who are very focused on trying to save people’s lives,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “I don’t know if there’s any other thing that should be more powerful in people’s minds about why they ought to follow the mitigations and stay home right now, than the number of people who are passing away.”

The latest victims included 46 Cook County residents, including a man in his 20s and two in their 30s. An additional 42 fatalities were reported in other Chicago-area counties.

The new cases were diagnosed among almost 107,000 COVID-19 tests, which lowered the average statewide positivity rate from 10.6% to 10.4%. The governor’s health team has said that’s one sign of “cautious optimism” that the state might be trending down from a staggering resurgence that started in October.

Hospital metrics continued to show some gradual improvement with the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients decreasing from 5,764 to 5,653 as of Wednesday night. The number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care declined slightly to 1,170 and the number of those on ventilators fell to 693.

Still, those figures are all above or close to the levels Illinois hospitals saw in the first wave, and officials are bracing for a possible new spike in cases due to transmission at holiday gatherings last week.

“We have hospital beds, but people should not see that as some sort of invitation that we should reduce mitigations and therefore fill up all the beds because, ‘Gee, there’s a vacancy.’ It’s not true,” Pritzker said. “The fact is that we have to bring down the hospitalizations overall, because we don’t have the staffing, if we do hit that height.”

Since March, 10.8 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois, with almost 760,000 people testing positive and 12,830 of those dying.

Beyond pleading with residents to stay home, maintain social distance, wear masks, wash their hands and get flu shots, officials are also asking people to donate blood.

“Hospitals need blood right now more than ever,” Pritzker said. “It’s normally difficult to get blood donations around the holidays, but the pandemic has made it even harder to maintain an adequate blood supply.”

For more information on donating, call 1 (800) RED-CROSS or visit redcross.org.

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