Coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations down, but positivity rate up to start new year

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 29 more coronavirus deaths Saturday, the fewest in a day since mid-November. Positivity rates have increased for a week, though.

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Visitors are not allowed and the COVID-19 unit consequently sits quiet at Roseland Community Hospital last month. More than 975,000 people have contracted the virus in Illinois since March.

Visitors are not allowed and the COVID-19 unit consequently sits quiet at Roseland Community Hospital last month. More than 975,000 people have contracted the virus in Illinois since March.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Saturday announced 29 more Illinois deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 while the virus has spread to an additional 4,762 people.

That’s the lowest coronavirus death count reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health in a single day since Nov. 13, and a far cry from the statewide average of 111 deaths per day over the last two weeks.

Twelve Chicago-area residents were among the latest victims, including a Cook County man in his 50s.

The new caseload was also well below the state’s average of 5,785 per day over the last two weeks, but that’s mostly because laboratories have been processing far fewer tests over the holidays.

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The cases were detected among 61,987 tests submitted New Year’s Day — compared to the recent daily average of about 77,000 — which raised the statewide average positivity rate over the last week to 8.3%.

Experts use the positivity rate to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading. That number has fallen from an autumn high of 13% during the state’s record-breaking November resurgence, but it’s still jumped from just 6.8% a week ago.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has warned the state could see a spike in cases due to large holiday gatherings. It’s not yet clear if Illinois’ slow uptick is tied to that, because experts agree it takes at least a couple of weeks for increasing transmission to show up in the data.

For now, though, hospital numbers are trending in the right direction. Illinois started the new year with 3,799 hospitalized coronavirus patients as of Friday night. On Thursday, that number fell below 4,000 for the first time in almost two months, after reaching an all-time high of almost 6,200 in late November.

The number of patients requiring intensive care has also steadily fallen since then along with the number on ventilators, down to 783 and 458, respectively.

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Since March, 13.4 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois, with more than 975,000 people confirmed to carry the virus and 16,674 of them dying.

The state closed out the year with a total of 143,924 people who have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Several months remain before shots are available for most of the state’s 12.7 million residents.

“As we close the chapter on a difficult year, let’s remember to continue taking the proven steps that will eradicate the virus & lead to a brighter 2021,” Pritzker tweeted. “Wear your mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

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