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Coronavirus crossroads? As Illinois sees largest single-day caseload since May, Pritzker warns ‘we’re at a danger point’

The rise is part of a disturbing trend that’s seen July’s daily case average shoot up to more than 1,100, compared to 764 per day last month. In the last nine days alone, more than 13,000 new cases have been reported.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference at the Adams County Public Health Department in Quincy in July.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a news conference at the Adams County Public Health Department in Quincy on Monday.
Neal Earley/Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Illinois is at “a danger point” in the battle against COVID-19, as public health officials on Thursday announced another 1,772 new coronavirus cases — the highest single day tally since May, when the virus hit its deadly peak.

The rise is part of a disturbing trend that’s seen July’s daily case average shoot up to more than 1,100, compared to 764 per day last month. In the last nine days alone, more than 13,000 new cases have been reported — more than half the total for all of last month.

Speaking in downstate Peoria, an area Pritzker has put on his warning list, the governor suggested residents are at a crossroads.

“We’re at a danger point everybody. Pay attention,” he said. “Now is the moment to wear your mask properly.”

Medical personnel at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, conduct drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Park Ridge.
Medical personnel at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, conduct drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Park Ridge in March.
AP file

The state’s positivity rate — which experts say indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading through a region — was 2.7% on June 26, when most businesses, restaurants and bars were allowed to resume limited operations under the fourth phase of Pritzker’s reopening plan.

But on Wednesday, the governor said “right now, things are not heading in the right direction,” warning “if things don’t change, a reversal is where we’re headed.”

The 1,772 new cases represent the highest daily total since May 24, when 2,508 were reported. May saw an average of more than 2,100 cases a day. July’s daily average hit 1,123 with the latest caseload.

“Much of the increase in cases has been tied to the 29 and under population, large social gatherings and household spread from family member to family member,” Pritzker said in a Facebook post.

On Thursday, health officials also announced 18 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and a seven-day positivity rate holding at 3.8%. That number has climbed upward from 2.5% three weeks ago.

The state’s total case count stands at 176,896. Its tally of coronavirus deaths is 7,478.

Looking at the weekly average of new cases is also cause for concern.

The seven-day new case average stands at 1,424. It’s nearly double the comparable average of 766 that was recorded a month ago on June 30.

A sign warns people to follow COVID-19 precautions at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex in Vernon Hills on Thursday.
A sign warns people to follow COVID-19 precautions at Vernon Hills Athletic Complex in Vernon Hills on Thursday. Gov. J.B Pritzker introduced new restrictions for recreational sports leagues in Illinois Wednesday.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Pritzker has said he would not hesitate to reimpose restrictions in regions of the state where the virus is rapidly spreading.

If a region surpasses certain thresholds — metrics include percentage of people testing positive, hospital capacity, and rising hospital admissions — then officials can choose to tighten restrictions from a “menu” of options outlined in the new tiered-system.

Four counties have been put at the “warning level” for “risky behavior:” LaSalle in north-central Illinois, Randolph in the Metro East region near St. Louis, centrally located Peoria and Adams along the Mississippi River.

“And we’re counting on local residents to hold your elected leaders accountable,” Pritzker said Monday at the Adams County Health Department in Quincy. “Demand that they take action — because if they don’t, they’ll drive the entire region back to closed bars and restaurants and greater job losses or even another stay-at-home order.”