Illinois COVID-19 cases top 5,000 for first time in two months — and it’s time to get vaccinated ‘right now,’ officials say
Average daily cases have shot up in Chicago by 24% since last week, underscoring the importance of getting vaccinated, officials say.
Illinois public health officials on Wednesday announced 5,044 new cases of COVID-19, marking the state’s highest total in two months and raising concerns about a rise in infections heading into the holiday season.
The troubling case count raised the seven-day average statewide case positivity rate to 2.5%, suggesting the virus is spreading at the fastest rate seen since late September, when the state was coming down from the Delta variant surge.
The numbers have now been moving in the wrong direction for about two weeks as people spend more time indoors due to colder weather.
Average daily cases have shot up 24% in Chicago since last week, with about 403 residents testing positive each day. The 400-case-per-day mark puts the city back in the “high transmission” level set by the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said experts have long anticipated a seasonal uptick because the virus spreads more easily indoors due to lower ventilation. The question is how bad things might get.
“For me, it’s especially an indication that now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t yet, and to make sure your kids are getting vaccinated,” Arwady said during a news conference Tuesday.
“If we can get a lot of students vaccinated now, if we can get a lot of adults vaccinated and boosted ahead of the holidays, right now is the time to do that,” she said. “We wait a month, we wait two months — we could be in the middle of a larger surge.”
Any potential surge isn’t likely to come close to the one Illinois weathered during its first COVID winter. This time last year, the state was logging more than 10,000 cases per day with a positivity rate over 13% on the upward trajectory of the worst spike of the pandemic.
Now, vaccines are widely available to all residents as young as 5, and almost 78% of Illinoisans have gotten at least one shot.
Besides getting vaccinated, officials have urged families to keep taking basic precautions at holiday gatherings, such as maintaining social distance and following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide indoor mask mandate.
Earlier this month, Pritzker said he wouldn’t rescind the mask mandate until the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers improve. Almost 1,500 hospital beds were occupied by coronavirus patients Tuesday night, the most in a month.
The virus has claimed 26,028 Illinois lives over the past 20 months, including the latest 20 deaths reported Wednesday.
Chicago Public Schools canceled classes Friday to promote “Vaccination Awareness Day,” encouraging families to get their newly eligible children inoculated.
For help finding a shot, visit chi.gov/covidvax.