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COVID-19 claims 78 more Illinois lives, most in a day since February: ‘Things are not looking that great’

Average daily case counts have more than tripled across the state over the past month, and now coronavirus deaths are back on the rise.

Nurse Tamara Jones, pictured in December 2020, puts on new personal protective equipment as she prepares to checks on a patient with COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit at Roseland Community Hospital. Coronavirus deaths are back on the rise in Illinois.
Nurse Tamara Jones, pictured in December 2020, puts on new personal protective equipment as she prepares to checks on a patient with COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit at Roseland Community Hospital. Coronavirus deaths are back on the rise in Illinois.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Public health officials on Tuesday announced 78 more COVID-19 deaths across Illinois, the state’s highest one-day toll in 10 months.

That’s almost four times as high as Illinois’ daily coronavirus death rate over the past month, and it’s the most fatalities reported in a day since 102 lives were lost statewide Feb. 11, at the tail end of the state’s worst surge of the pandemic.

The state is now averaging 41 deaths per day over the past week, up from about 23 per day during the first week of November, according to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The rise in deaths predictably follows a month-long case surge that has shown no sign of slowing down. It’s a pattern that has played out like clockwork during each of Illinois’ four major previous surges in the pandemic: Rising case counts lead to more serious infections requiring hospitalization, which are more likely to end in tragedy within a few weeks. The latest spike appears to be no exception.

“Things are not looking that great from a COVID perspective,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during an online Q&A, noting that the Midwest is at the center of a nationwide uptick.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady gives an update about COVID-19 cases last month.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady gives an update about COVID-19 cases on Vaccination Awareness Day at Michele Clark Magnet High School in the South Austin neighborhood last month.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

After a brief respite from summer’s initial Delta variant surge, Illinois cases started rising again in late October. The state closed out that month averaging 2,226 new cases per day. That average daily rate has more than tripled, up to 7,340.

Hospitalizations started rising Nov. 1 and are now at the highest point seen since late January, with 3,029 beds occupied as of Monday night. That’s more than double the nightly number seen in late October, but for now it’s only about half as bad as things got during last fall’s surge, which peaked about a month before vaccines were launched.

New COVID-19 deaths by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

About three-quarters of Illinois residents 5 or older have gotten at least one shot, and about two-thirds are considered fully vaccinated. Roughly a third of eligible adults have received a booster dose.

The virus has claimed 26,698 Illinois lives over the past 21 months.