As Chicago bar and restaurant owners were allowed to open their doors for the first time in almost three months Saturday, Illinois public health officials announced COVID-19 has spread to 5,152 more people and killed an additional 97 residents statewide.
The latest cases were detected among 110,178 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, lowering the state’s seven-day average positivity rate to 4.9% — and marking the first day since Oct. 15 that key indicator of transmission has fallen below 5%.
After an unprecedented autumn resurgence that saw the average positivity rate soar over 13%, most of the state’s infection numbers have moved in the right direction since the holidays.
The positivity rate is still higher than it was over the summer, when it hovered around 3%, but it’s been on a sharp decline since Jan. 7.
Hospitals were treating 3,121 COVID-19 patients as of Friday night, which marked the lowest number of beds occupied by coronavirus patients since Oct. 29.
The virus has still claimed an average of 77 lives per day over the last week, but that fatality rate is still down from roughly 129 per day this time last month.
Those areas of improvement have prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to begin loosening business restrictions across the state, including Chicago and suburban Cook County, which improved to Tier 1 of the state’s mitigation plan Saturday. They’re now among eight of the state’s 11 regions where limited indoor service has been allowed to resume at bars and restaurants.
Indoor service previously resumed in the Will-Kankakee county region, but it’s still banned in DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties, which are all still under Tier 2 mitigations.
Since last March, about 1.1 million people have tested positive for the virus, and 18,711 of them have died.
As businesses take another step back toward normality, Pritzker has urged residents to stay vigilant with masking and social distancing — especially just a week after the more infectious “UK variant” of the virus was first detected in Chicago.
The state will enter Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan Monday, meaning about 3.2 million essential workers and people 65 and older are eligible to begin receiving shots by appointment. Scarce supply means it’ll take months to vaccinate to most residents.
Only about 134,000 people have been fully vaccinated with two doses so far in Illinois, barely 1% of the population. About 658,000 doses have been administered in all, mostly to health care workers and nursing home residents.