2,839 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois as Cook County faces ‘the beginning of another surge’

The state is vaccinating more and more people each day, but coronavirus cases have trended sharply upward over the past month, especially among young people.

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Dr. Rachel Rubin in 2020.

Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, has warned that the Chicago area is already facing another COVID-19 surge.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

A troubling rise in COVID-19 cases across the Chicago area and the rest of Illinois means another coronavirus “clamp-down” could soon be in store for businesses in suburban Cook County, officials warned Saturday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,839 new cases of the deadly respiratory disease were diagnosed across the state, raising Illinois’ average testing positivity rate to 3.8%. That figure has almost doubled in just three weeks.

Hospitals statewide have seen a 32% increase in COVID-19 patients over that period, with 1,426 beds occupied Friday night.

And with about 600 people testing positive in Cook County each day — most of them young adults — suburban cases have more than doubled over the past month, according to Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead and senior medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health.

“We are in the beginnings of another surge now,” Rubin said during a virtual news conference. “Maybe this is as high as we’ll go, and maybe it’ll level out and go down. We can’t say. It’s very very hard to predict. But that’s one of the reasons we’re pushing out vaccine as quickly as we get it.”

The state reported its second-most productive vaccination day yet with 145,315 doses administered Friday. At a rolling average of 110,057 shots given per day, Illinois is vaccinating more people than ever — but still, only 18.2% of the population have been fully immunized.

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.

If cases keep ticking upward, county officials will consider scaling back recently expanded indoor business capacity limits from 50% down to 40% or 30%. Those and other possible COVID-19 “mitigations” will be on the table, Rubin said.

“We may very well have to clamp down within a matter of days,” she said. “I’m not promising that one way or the other. We need to evaluate exactly what kinds of activities and movements do we think are really pushing this surge.”

It’s not clear exactly what’s driving the statewide surge, Rubin said, but “COVID fatigue” certainly isn’t helping.

“Historically, it’s been indoor activities like indoor dining or indoor congregating: parties, weddings, large celebrations. That’s where we have been seeing spread among large numbers of people, and these are the kinds of things that we’ve been trying to clamp down on all along,” she said.

That’s why Rubin urged families to keep Easter celebrations virtual or outdoors this weekend — with masks and plenty of social distance.

“People have to be safe and have to be following the appropriate guidance,” she said.

The state also reported 13 more COVID-19 deaths, including that of a Cook County woman in her 40s.

Illinois’ pandemic death toll is up to 21,361, among almost 1.3 million who have tested positive over the past year.

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

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