2,356 new Illinois coronavirus cases after record testing day

Business restrictions could soon be imposed in Will and Kankakee counties as the region hit the 8% testing positivity threshold.

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A blood sample is taken for a coronavirus antibody test earlier this month in the parking lot of St. Rosalie Catholic Parish in Harwood Heights.

A blood sample is taken for a coronavirus antibody test May 1 in the parking lot of St. Rosalie Catholic Parish in Harwood Heights.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Illinois’ monthlong coronavirus case rise took another step up Saturday — but so did the state’s soaring testing capacity.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,356 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s largest caseload in three months and the sixth day so far in August reporting 2,000 or more cases. Previously, Illinois hadn’t topped that mark since May 24, when the state logged more than 2,500 cases during the initial peak of the pandemic.

But the new cases were confirmed among a record-high 56,766 tests submitted to the state, the fourth straight day Illinois set a new testing record. Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s hopeful a “game-changing” new rapid, saliva-based COVID-19 test in development at the University of Illinois could soon take testing to more dramatic heights.

That’ll be key to lowering the statewide seven-day testing positivity rate, which has inched upward from 2.5% in early July to 4.3% Saturday. Experts say that shows the virus is spreading more rapidly.

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Chicago is at 5.2% positivity, and suburban Cook County is at 6.5%. Those numbers have increased over the last week but are still short of the 8% benchmark Pritzker’s office set to trigger a state intervention, potentially leading to business restrictions.

Such mitigations are already in place in the downstate Metro East region, which is at 9.5% positivity.

And they could soon be imposed on the far southwest suburbs. After weeks of steady increases, the Kankakee-Will County region hit the 8% threshold Saturday.

Southern Illinois is at 7.6%. Twenty of the state’s 102 counties are considered to be at a coronavirus “warning level.”

Most people who contract the virus show mild or no symptoms, but experts warn the long-term effects of the respiratory disease are unknown. The recovery rate in the state is 95%.

But state health officials also announced 17 more deaths Saturday, including a Cook County woman in her 20s and a man in his 30s.

More than 218,000 people have contracted the virus in Illinois since March, and 7,874 of them have died. About 3.6 million people have been tested.

As of Friday night, 1,488 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 322 in intensive care units and 127 on ventilators — all well within the state’s hospital capacity.

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