Bare faces, risky behavior prompt COVID-19 warnings for 11 counties as state hits two-month high caseload
“Residents of many communities are not wearing face coverings that have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the health department said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s public health team on Friday put 11 counties on notice across Illinois for hitting a “warning level” as the state’s rebound in coronavirus cases hit another apex with 1,941 newly confirmed cases.
That’s the state’s highest single-day caseload since May 24 — eclipsing the two-month high tally set just a day earlier.
The latest cases were confirmed among a record 49,782 tests received by the state, but it was still enough to raise Illinois’ rolling positivity rate over the past week to 3.9%. That number, which indicates how quickly the virus is spreading, was 2.6% at the end of June.
The state hasn’t topped 2,000 daily cases since late May, when the state suffered its peak COVID-19 impact with an average of almost 2,200 new cases and 100 deaths reported per day. Illinois closed out the month of July averaging 1,150 new cases per day, compared to 764 in June when the state’s curve flattened.
And a day after Pritzker warned that the steady rise in cases has the state “at a danger point,” the Illinois Department of Public Health sounded the alarm on 11 counties with outbreaks tied to risky activities — mostly among young people — ranging from graduation ceremonies and soccer tournaments to crowded bars, churches and restaurants.
Those 11 counties are scattered from one end of the state to the other, from Jo Daviess in the far northwestern corner to Johnson in deep southern Illinois. Cass and Sangamon — where Springfield sits — in central Illinois are also on the warning list. But the largest cluster is in the state’s southern tip – including St. Clair, Randolph, Jackson and Perry in the Metro East region near St. Louis, and Gallatin, Saline and White near the southeastern edge.
“Residents of many communities are not wearing face coverings that have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the health department said. “Public health officials are finding that most contacts to cases are testing positive as well.”
Counties are branded as being at “warning level” if they see increases in two or more health metrics considered “risk indicators” by the state. Officials last week singled out four “warning level” counties including Randolph, but three of them — Adams, LaSalle and Peoria — dropped that tag. They’re each still logging one risk indicator for more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people, though.
The state did give kudos to leaders in several counties for “taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow the spread of the virus,” including a masking mandate in Springfield and a suspension on visits at Perry County nursing homes and hospitals.
In other troubling signs, eight of the state’s 11 regions designated by the governor’s office have seen positivity increases for at least a week or more. Under Pritzker’s coronavirus resurgence plan, that means they could soon face a state intervention including business shutdowns if hospital admissions increase or bed availability decreases.
“This is hugely problematic,” Pritzker said Thursday. “It’s not something that we wanted to see happen, but it means that we’re going to have to take a hard look at what do we need to do, what mitigations do we need now, in order to get us back in line with the direction we were going, which was reducing those positivity rates.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday also announced another 21 deaths have been attributed to the virus, raising Illinois’ pandemic toll to 7,495.
A total of 178,837 people have tested positive in Illinois since March, among nearly 2.7 million who have been tested. The recovery rate is 95%.
Nursing homes still account for more than half the Illinois death toll, according to the latest figures released by the state on long-term care facilities: 4,136 deaths among 24,845 cases.
Additionally, the state updated its estimate of “probable” but untested cases of COVID-19 that aren’t included in Illinois’ pandemic totals: 197 deaths and 1,281 nonfatal infections.
As of Thursday night, 1,369 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 346 in intensive care units and 148 on ventilators.