Omicron still ominous: ‘Rapid decrease’ in most COVID-19 metrics stirs hope, but Illinois death rate sparks flashbacks

While deaths “still are quite high” in Chicago at a rate of about 19 per day, other numbers suggest relief could be on the way, Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.

SHARE Omicron still ominous: ‘Rapid decrease’ in most COVID-19 metrics stirs hope, but Illinois death rate sparks flashbacks
Trailers intended to store bodies amid a COVID-19 surge are parked outside the Cook County Institute of Forensic Medicine earlier this month.

Trailers intended to store bodies amid a COVID-19 surge are parked outside the Cook County Institute of Forensic Medicine earlier this month.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

COVID-19 is killing Illinoisans at the fastest rate seen since December 2020, but cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates are showing a “very rapid decrease” that suggest the worst of the Omicron resurgence has passed, Chicago’s top doctor said Tuesday.

The statewide numbers backed up that cautiously optimistic view, with cases up slightly — but down from last week’s sky-high numbers — and hospitalizations dropping again.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 13,706 new cases, lowering the average to just over 24,000 infections per day over the last week — a 13% decline compared to the previous week. And with 5,183 beds occupied, hospital admissions have dipped 23% over the same period.

But deaths notched up to 121 after two days of double-digit tallies, raising the statewide seven-day average to 132 COVID fatalities per day. Not since late December 2020 have Illinois families been hit with tragedy at such a rapid pace.

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.

That month saw the state hit its worst death rate of the pandemic, with an all-time high seven-day average of 155 reached Dec. 8, 2020.

While deaths “still are quite high” in Chicago at a rate of about 19 per day, other numbers suggest relief could be on the way, according to city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. The citywide positivity rate is down to 7.3%, while daily cases and hospital admissions have sunk 50% and 32%, respectively, in a week.

“It’s amazing to me that Omicron started here early in December, and here we are not even at the end of January, and we’ve seen this very rapid increase and peak, and then this very rapid decrease,” she said.

But to stave off another vicious resurgence, officials say it’s critical for more people to get vaccinated and boosted. More than 20% of eligible Illinois residents still haven’t gotten a shot, and there’s no time like the present, Arwady said.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, shows off her “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” sticker in January of 2021.

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, shows off her “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” sticker in January of 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“There are thousands of people, every day in Chicago, getting their first COVID vaccine. … I know it may feel to you like everybody’s made that decision, but they haven’t, so it’s why we want folks talking about it,” she said.

For help finding a shot, or to set up a free in-home vaccination appointment, visit chicago.gov/covidvax or call (312) 746-4835.

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