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Illinois coronavirus cases top 1 million

On average, one resident has contracted the virus every 26 seconds since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the state in early March.

Residents wait in line to get tested at a COVID-19 testing site in November at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy. More than a million Illinois residents have been infected throughout the pandemic.
Residents wait in line to get tested at a COVID-19 testing site in November at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy. More than 1 million Illinois residents have been infected throughout the pandemic.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Illinois’ coronavirus case tally eclipsed 1 million Thursday as state public health officials announced 8,757 more people have contracted COVID-19.

A total of 1,008,045 infections have been diagnosed across the state since early March. That’s an average of about 3,316 new cases per day — or about one person infected every 26 seconds.

It also means roughly one in every 13 Illinois residents has carried COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic — almost 8% of the state population of 12.7 million. Experts agree thousands of additional cases likely have gone undetected over the past 10 months.

More than 21 million cases have been diagnosed nationwide. Illinois has seen the fifth most of any state, trailing California, Texas, Florida and New York.

“As this disease continues to wreak havoc on our nation — with the United States setting another record for the most COVID-19 deaths in a day just yesterday — it is critical that we take extra caution today and in the months ahead to reduce the spread, bring down hospitalization rates, and save lives,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “Now that vaccine distribution has begun, we can see the light at the end of this difficult time — let’s do everything we can to ensure all of our neighbors are able to be there as we cross that finish line, healthy as well.”

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More than half of all the Illinois cases — 542,505 — were detected over the past two months alone as the state weathered a record-breaking resurgence that peaked in mid-November.

Illinois’ key metrics generally have trended in the right direction since then, aside from a weeklong uptick in positivity rates after Christmas. The latest cases were detected among 105,518 tests, raising the statewide seven-day average positivity rate by a tenth of a percentage point to 8.5%.

Nightly COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined from a late November peak near 6,200 down to 3,921 as of Wednesday night. Of those, 783 were receiving intensive care and 450 were on ventilators.

Pritzker said Wednesday he’s “cautiously optimistic” some regions of the state “have made real progress and won’t reverse that progress.”

“My prayer for the new year is that everyone stays healthy and all of our regions continue to move in the right direction,” Pritzker said. “I ask all Illinoisans to join me in making that possible by wearing a mask and keeping your distance.”

The Democratic governor said business restrictions in some regions of the state could start being lifted next week, though they’ll need to see further sustained improvement before bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen.

Despite the positive trends, the virus is still claiming Illinois lives at a staggering rate of about 113 deaths per day over the last week. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced another 177 deaths Thursday, raising the pandemic toll to 17,272.

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Ninety Chicago-area residents were among the latest victims, including two Cook County men in their 40s.

About half of the state’s deaths have been tied to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which have accounted for more than 65,000 total cases. Statewide, the COVID-19 recovery rate is 98%.

While about 8% of the state has been infected, Pritzker’s health team is aiming to inoculate at least 80% of the population, or about 10.2 million residents, to achieve herd immunity.

So far, about 213,000 Illinoisans have received coronavirus vaccine doses, mostly health care workers and nursing home residents.

About 3.2 million people 65 and older, plus essential workers like first responders and teachers, will be next in line as more doses become available, likely in a “few weeks,” Pritzker said. Several months remain before most people will be able to get shots.