Illinois hospitals are treating the fewest coronavirus patients they’ve seen in over two months as public health officials announced Friday the virus has killed an additional 126 residents and spread to 9,277 more.
The new COVID-19 caseload is the largest announced by the Illinois Department of Public Health since Dec. 11, but that’s partly because laboratories have only returned to their normal testing capacity this week after a decline over the holidays.
The infections were detected among 118,655 tests, keeping the state’s seven-day average testing positivity rate at 8.5%.
It’s been a rollercoaster two months for Illinois since the state hit a record-breaking autumn resurgence in mid-November. The positivity rate, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, fell nearly by half from 13.2% on Nov. 13 to 6.8% after Christmas — and then jumped to 8.6% into the first week of the new year.
It’s now remained about level for four consecutive days, with Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressing cautious optimism the numbers are heading in the right direction — and saying some regions of the state could start seeing business restrictions loosened next week.
Some of that optimism is due to 3,777 Illinois hospital beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients as of Thursday night, the fewest in a night since Election Night.
That number has fallen by 39% from a Nov. 20 peak of 6,175 — but it’s still more than double the summertime average, which hovered around 1,500 occupied hospital beds per night.
Other hospital metrics have fallen to pre-peak levels too, with 780 infected people currently receiving intensive care and 422 using ventilators.
But the state’s death rate is still high. Friday’s toll of 126 was above the state’s average of about 108 lives lost per day over the last week.
It’s still better than the first week of December, when roughly 153 COVID-19 patients were dying each day, the worst stretch of the pandemic.
Sixty-five of the latest victims came from the Chicago area, including a Cook County man and woman in their 40s.
More than a million Illinoisans have been infected over the past 10 months, and 17,395 of them have died.
Just over 213,000 residents have received coronavirus vaccine doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes about 47,000 Chicago residents, city data shows.
Roughly 810,000 health care workers and nursing home residents statewide are first in line for shots. Pritzker announced this week people over 65 and essential workers such as first responders and teachers — a group that numbers about 3.2 million — will be next and could start receiving shots in a few weeks.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city and state “are on the exact same page” for the vaccine rollout.
“I am thrilled about the prospect of being able to get more vaccine here in Chicago,” she said after seeing several residents inoculated at a Northwest Side nursing home. “The faster we have vaccine here, the faster we can move through these priority groups.