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Illinois suffers highest COVID-19 caseload in two months, spikes in hospitalizations, positivity, deaths: ‘We are in a surge’

Cases have jumped nearly 30% statewide over the past week, including an 18% spike in Chicago.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks at a City Hall news conference last year.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks at a City Hall news conference last year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Illinois’ latest coronavirus surge took another step up Thursday as public health officials reported 5,644 new cases, the most logged in a single day since the first week of September.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 30 more deaths, the worst one-day toll in two weeks, while the 1,669 hospitalized COVID-19 patients marked the highest total in a month.

Cases have jumped nearly 30% statewide over the past week, including an 18% spike in Chicago where an average of 501 residents are testing positive each day.

“The numbers are not good,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during an online Q&A. “We are in a surge,” she said, adding that it’s “not a surprise as we head into winter.”

Colder weather means more people spending time indoors, breathing the same air — and providing more opportunities for the virus to spread, experts say.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

That’s why public health officials say it’s critical for more people to get one of the free, life-saving vaccines that are now widely available to residents as young as 5. Almost 29% of eligible Chicagoans are still unvaccinated, city data shows.

“Right now, this week — I’m worried if people think, ‘I just want to wait a few weeks, I want to wait a few months.’ ... Please take advantage of this now. Lots of availability at our city-run clinics,” Arwady said, in addition to all major pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, receives her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in January.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, receives her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in January.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

The state’s high caseload was diagnosed among a pandemic-record 181,622 tests submitted to public health officials, but cases have been rising steadily since late October. The seven-day average case positivity rate is up to 3%, its highest point since Sept. 22.

While the state is entering its fifth major resurgence since the virus started sweeping the globe in March of 2020, it’s still nowhere near as bad as it got during Illinois’ worst wave last fall. The positivity rate topped out over 13% last November, with more than 10,000 infections diagnosed per day.

The state is now averaging 3,767 daily cases, compared to 2,176 per day in mid-October — a 74% increase.

The virus has claimed 26,190 Illinois lives so far.

For help finding a shot, visit chi.gov/covidvax.