Delta turns deadly: Illinois COVID-19 deaths jump 64% in a week

Illinois public health officials reported 64 coronavirus deaths over the past week, compared to 39 fatal cases logged a week earlier. The sharp 64% rise comes just a month after the state reported its first day without a single COVID-19 fatality in nearly 16 months.

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Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks about the rising cases of COVID-19 in unvaccinated individuals during a press conference at the Thompson Center, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike speaks about the rising cases of COVID-19 in unvaccinated individuals during a press conference at the Thompson Center, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

COVID-19 is killing more Illinois residents as the state’s Delta variant-fueled surge follows a predictably tragic pattern that’s already played out three times over the course of the pandemic.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday reported 64 coronavirus deaths over the past week, a 64% increase compared to the 39 fatal cases logged a week earlier.

The sharp rise comes just a month after the state reported its first day without a single COVID-19 fatality in nearly 16 months. Illinois was losing an average of six residents every day to the coronavirus in early July. The daily fatality rate is now up to nine.

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With 13 more deaths reported Friday, the state has reported double-digit tolls for three straight days. That hadn’t happened previously since mid-June.

And those numbers can be expected to keep rising. With 1,200 beds occupied statewide Thursday night, COVID-19 hospitalizations have quadrupled statewide over the past month, including a 33% spike in the last week alone. Intensive care admissions increased 47% compared to last week, while ventilator usage has nearly doubled, officials said.

Experts say the death rate is a “lagging indicator” because it takes several weeks for rising cases to develop into more serious cases that end in hospitalization and death. That’s what happened during the initial COVID-19 surge in the spring of 2020, again during last fall’s devastating resurgence and once more during a smaller spike in April.

Illinois’ overall death toll is 23,503 – roughly the equivalent of wiping out the entire population of south suburban Blue Island over the course of 17 months.

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.

The state is nowhere close to the worst days of the pandemic in December, when more than 150 residents were dying each day. But with the arrival of the more infectious Delta variant, cases have been rising in Illinois since the Fourth of July — mostly in areas with lower vaccination rates — and aren’t showing any sign of letting up.

The state is now averaging nearly 2,400 new cases diagnosed each day, a rate that has increased 43% since last week — and has multiplied by eight since last month.

Nurse practitioner Capri Rees, left, looks at the monitor for a heart rhythm while respiratory therapist Khafran Alshahin performs chest compressions on an 80-year-old man who ultimately died from COVID-19 at Roseland Community Hospital in April of 2020.

Nurse practitioner Capri Rees, left, looks at the monitor for a heart rhythm while respiratory therapist Khafran Alshahin performs chest compressions on an 80-year-old man who ultimately died from COVID-19 at Roseland Community Hospital in April of 2020.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“The overwhelming majority of cases, the hospitalizations and the deaths are among those who are not vaccinated,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at a news conference earlier in the week announcing a mask mandate for all schools. “But the key is that we actually have the tools to turn the tide on the next wave. And that next wave wants to threaten us if we don’t avail ourselves of these tools.”

More than a quarter of eligible residents have yet to roll up a sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccine. About 73% have gotten a shot, and 57% are fully vaccinated.

The state saw a slight bump in vaccine demand in mid-July, but the daily shot average has fallen off slightly over the past few days down to 25,244.

Chicagoans can request an in-home dose by calling (312) 746-4835. For help finding a shot in suburban Cook County, visit cookcountypublichealth.org or call (833) 308-1988. To find other Illinois providers, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.

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