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Illinois sees high numbers in both daily COVID-19 caseload and testing, so key positivity rate remains low

On average, more than 2,000 people have tested positive statewide each day over the last two weeks, compared to 2,300 in mid-May when fewer people were being tested.

A security guard administers a temperature check at the entrance to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in July.
A security guard administers a temperature check at the entrance to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in July.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Thursday announced Illinois logged more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for the third time in a week, but the state’s high testing capacity suggests that apparently high number isn’t cause for alarm.

The latest 2,056 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among 57,800 tests. lowering the state’s average testing positivity rate over the last week to 3.6%, as low as it’s been since late July.

On average, more than 2,000 people have tested positive statewide each day over the last two weeks. Nearly 2,300 new cases were being confirmed each day during the worst two-week stretch of the pandemic in mid-May.

Only about 20,100 tests were being administered each day back then, though. Roughly 54,300 people have been tested daily on average over the last two weeks.

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But the Illinois Department of Public Health also announced the virus has killed 25 more Illinoisans, as the virus has proven slightly more deadly in recent weeks.

COVID-19 has claimed about 21 lives statewide per day over the last two weeks, compared to an average daily death toll of about 17 over the first two weeks of August.

The latest victims included two men in their 30s, one from DuPage County and another from DeKalb County. A total of 8,392 residents have died with the virus throughout the pandemic.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised the state’s progress on positivity rates this month during a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, as Illinois’ 11 regions have seen stable or declining numbers following a mid-summer resurgence.

The Will-Kankakee county region has fallen to 6.1% positivity from a high last month over 8% that prompted the Democratic governor to ban indoor service at bars and restaurants. Barring a severe uptick Friday, that service will be allowed to resume.

But Pritzker cautioned that “no matter what your positivity level is, the virus still out there.

“It’s just a question of: can you keep yourself safe? Are you wearing the right protective gear?” the governor said Wednesday. “The idea that bars and restaurants can be just fully loaded at their original capacity — I think we’ve all determined that while this virus is going on, while we don’t have an effective treatment or vaccine, doing that is literally creating super spreader events.”

Chicago is at 5% positivity, suburban Cook County at 5.3% and all other metro-area regions are below 6%.

Since March, more than 4.9 million COVID-19 tests have been administered, with at least 268,207 people confirmed to carry the virus.

As of Wednesday night, 1,558 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 359 in intensive care units and 144 on ventilators.