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Record spike of 1,842 new Illinois coronavirus cases: ‘The curve is bending. But it isn’t flat yet’

It’s been a topsy-turvy week for the state, which recorded its highest number of deaths — 125 — on Thursday, after Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this week had voiced some optimism about the outbreak slowing down.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at a Friday news briefing on the coronavirus outbreak.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks at a Friday news briefing on the coronavirus outbreak.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois officials on Friday announced 62 more deaths due to the coronavirus and a record-high number of newly confirmed cases, capping a topsy-turvy week for the state that had shown signs of progress more than five weeks into the pandemic.

A day earlier, Illinois recorded its highest number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in a single day — 125 — while the 1,842 new diagnoses tallied Friday marked the biggest case surge since the state confirmed its first case in late January.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has voiced cautious optimism that the state is bending the curve to ease the burden on its health care system, but he and Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike acknowledged Friday the state has not yet hit its peak, with cases likely to continue rising for now.

“We did not think we were at our peak yet. So given that, we do expect cases to rise,” Ezike said. “One of the byproducts of being able to flatten the curve is that you will delay the peak, and maybe it’s not a peak where you go straight up and down — maybe, if I can use a term, ‘plateau,’ where you’re kind of flattened for a while. We’re looking at all these numbers to figure out exactly where we are in our curve. And it’s really been a day-by-day thing.”

Ezike said the state is looking at trends for fatalities, hospitalization numbers and emergency room visits.

The latest fatal cases raised the state’s coronavirus death toll to 1,134, while the number of overall confirmed cases now stands at 27,575. Of the 62 latest deaths, 37 were in Cook County, which also saw the youngest deaths reported Friday, two women in their 40s.

The virus has now been confirmed in 92 of the state’s 102 counties.

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And while Friday’s case spike was the Illinois’ largest yet, the state also ran at least 7,575 COVID-19 tests Thursday, the second-highest number of tests administered in a day so far. More than 130,000 people have been tested overall.

Pritzker said hospitalizations are “the most definite indicator of where you are in the curve,” and his office said they continue to remain level.

“We’re seeing, again, a flattening of that. We saw a really significant upward trend of it, and then we saw it sort of flattening,” Pritzker said. “The curve is bending. But it isn’t flat yet.”

Pritzker said the state is indeed seeing a “bend” in the curve based on what the projections were if residents were not staying home and also in the slowing of the development of people ending up in hospitals, in intensive care unit beds and on ventilators.

Just one additional patient entered an ICU room from Wednesday and Thursday, although the total number of COVID-19 patients occupying them jumped from 3,175 to 3,258 during that timespan.

“We are in a period where ... you can feel, you can see it bending this curve because we know what the projections were had we not put the stay-at-home in place,” Pritzker said.

That order expires April 30, but Pritzker is expected to extend it at some point next week.

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