Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate drops to 4.8% as state prepares to enter next phase of vaccine distribution plan

Illinois’ coronavirus metrics took another step in the right direction Sunday as state health officials announced the smallest daily caseload in more than three months.

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Dr. Marina Del Rios, from University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, gets her second and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Norwegian American Hospital on the West Side earlier this month.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

As Illinois prepares to enter the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s vaccination plan this week, the state’s coronavirus metrics took another step in the right direction Sunday.

State health officials reported Illinois’ smallest daily caseload in more than three months.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 3,292 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, which were found among the 90,138 tests processed in the last day for a daily positivity rate of about 3.7%. That’s the fewest new cases recorded in a day since Oct. 19.

The statewide positivity rate, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading, is down to 4.8%, the lowest it’s been since Oct. 14. That figure has been on the decline since it peaked this month at 8.6% on Jan. 4.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations are also the lowest they’ve been since late October. As of Saturday, 2,994 beds were occupied statewide by coronavirus patients, with 617 of those patients in intensive care units and 321 on ventilators, officials said.

Despite the overall progress, the respiratory virus is still claiming lives at an alarming rate. About 77 people have died from complications with the virus each day over the last week, including an additional 40 fatalities announced Sunday. Half of Sunday’s deaths, which brought the pandemic death toll to 18,750, were reported in the Chicago area.

That said, the fatality rate is down from this time last month when the state was averaging roughly 116 virus-related deaths per day.

The positive improvement in COVID-19 metrics over the last two weeks have helped the state start to gradually reopen. Limited indoor dining resumed Saturday in Chicago and suburban Cook County for the first time in nearly three months. As of Sunday, all but three of the state’s 11 regions have improved to Tier 1 mitigation level or Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan.

If metrics continue to improve, even looser restrictions are on the horizon for north and north-central Illinois, or Regions 1 and 2. The IDPH said those two regions could move to Phase 4. That means those regions, which will join Regions 3, 5 and 6 (or west-central, south and east-central parts of the state), will be able to play all high school sports, including higher-risk sports such as basketball, football and wrestling, as well as permit gatherings of 50 or fewer people.

This all comes as Illinois prepares to start Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan Monday. As of Sunday, 681,473 vaccines have been administered, including 106,274 for long-term care facilities.

While front-line hospital and health care workers and long-term care facility workers and residents remain a priority, the next group of Illinoisans in line for the vaccine are slated to start getting shots Monday.

The second group is reserved for people 65 and older and front-line essential workers. That includes teachers and school support staff, first responders, postal and public transit employees, corrections workers, incarcerated people and manufacturing, distribution and agriculture workers such as grocery store workers.

In total, 1,101,819 people in Illinois have been confirmed to have the virus among the nearly 15.4 million tests processed over the last 11 months. The statewide recovery rate is 98%.

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