Rising COVID-19 cases prompt warnings for Illinoisans ‘to remain vigilant and remain up to date’ on vaccine shots

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,340 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily count in two months and the latest red flag in the state’s three-week upswing in infections.

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People line up for COVID-19 tests in December in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Cases are on the rise in Illinois again.

People line up for COVID-19 tests in December in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Cases are on the rise in Illinois again.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Illinois residents need to pay “close attention” to the COVID-19 situation in their local communities with cases on the rise once again statewide, public health officials warned Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,340 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily count in two months and the latest red flag in the state’s three-week upswing in infections.

“While hospitalizations and deaths tied to COVID-19 remain stable at this time, we are seeing a slow increase in cases in many areas of the state,” acting Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Amaal Tokars said in a statement.

“This is a reminder that we all need to remain vigilant and remain up to date on our vaccination status. This is especially important for those who are at higher risk for serious outcomes.”

The health agency advised that residents “should be paying close attention to conditions in their local communities” and staying up to date with shots.

Acting Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Amaal Tokars speaks during a virtual briefing Tuesday.

Acting Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Amaal Tokars speaks during a virtual briefing Tuesday.

Illinois Department of Public Health

Tokars’ caution came a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker downplayed the state’s steady uptick in cases, which started shortly after St. Patrick’s Day — a few weeks after the governor lifted a statewide indoor mask mandate.

“I think that towns, cities across Illinois, not to mention across the country, should do what they feel is necessary in their communities to keep people safe,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday. “But I feel like right now — and listening to IDPH and our experts on the outside of IDPH — that we’re in a pretty good place.”

The numbers aren’t anywhere near the pandemic records Illinois set at the height of the Omicron variant surge in early January — but they’ve consistently moved in the wrong direction.

The state has averaged 1,990 new positive tests each day over the past week, a 67% jump compared to the last week of March.

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.

With Omicron and its subvariants spreading more easily, experts have shifted their focus from the raw numbers of cases to their severity and whether they result in hospitalizations.

But those are inching upward, too. Over the past week, about 38 people have been admitted to COVID-19 wards statewide each day, up from about 30 per day at the start of the month.

COVID-19 deaths remain near their lowest point since the onset of the pandemic, with an average of about seven fatalities each day over the past week.

State public health officials say they’re “strongly positioned to respond in the event of a new COVID-19 surge,” which they say can be avoided if more eligible residents get vaccinated and boosted. About 73% of Illinoisans are considered fully vaccinated.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady has said she’s confident the city and state will avoid a major surge, but she expects cases to keep rising for most of April as the more infectious BA.2 subvariant sweeps the nation.

University of Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon told the Sun-Times on Tuesday she thinks “the jury is out a little bit” as to how severe the BA.2 wave will get but noted “it hasn’t really done much of anything yet.”

University of Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon speaks to reporters at the Thompson Center in February.

University of Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon speaks to reporters at the Thompson Center in February.

Blue Room Stream

“I don’t think it’s going to be a major wave like Omicron,” Landon said. “We’re obviously seeing a bump in cases. The hospitalizations might bump up. If they don’t, you can feel relatively safe.”

Dr. Michael Angarone, associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Northwestern Medicine, said the next week or two will give a better idea of the virus’ trajectory.

“It’s something we have to pay attention to, this slow increase,” Angarone said Tuesday. “We haven’t seen that vertical rise like we’ve seen before … but one thing I’ve learned throughout the pandemic: Often, predictions are proven completely wrong.”

For help finding a shot, visit chi.gov/covidvax or call the city’s COVID-19 hotline at 312-746-4835.

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