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COVID-19 trouble signs: More ICU beds filled in Illinois as state reports 1,707 new coronavirus cases

Officials said 390 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in intensive care units, well within capacity but still the highest number in about two months.

Nurse practitioner Capri Reese runs to respond to a code blue in the intensive care unit at Roseland Community Hospital on April 28. The patient, an 80-year-old man with COVID-19, later died.
Nurse practitioner Capri Reese runs to respond to a code blue in the intensive care unit at Roseland Community Hospital on April 28. The patient, an 80-year-old man with COVID-19, later died.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The latest 1,707 COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths attributed to the virus statewide by public health officials Thursday are unfortunately typical for Illinois’ summertime coronavirus resurgence — but the number of patients being hospitalized with serious symptoms is even more troubling.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 390 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in intensive care units across the state as of Wednesday night, the highest number of people receiving critical care due to the virus since June 29.

Of those, 151 patients were on ventilators, the most since July 28.

Those numbers are still well within Illinois’ overall hospital capacity, accounting for about 10% of the state’s ICU beds and 3% of its ventilators.

At the height of the pandemic in mid-May, the state’s ICUs were treating close to 1,300 coronavirus patients per day, with almost half of those on ventilators.

A total of 1,631 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized Wednesday, the most since June 22 but a far cry from the peak when as many as 5,037 beds were filled.

But with daily caseloads ballooning over the last two months, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and other infectious disease experts have warned that a spike in COVID-19 deaths would follow the case rise, as younger carriers transmit the virus to older, more vulnerable people.

“Those increases may seem minimal, but they are representative of a much larger problem that we do have in the state, a problem that can lead to crowded hospitals, a problem that can lead to additional loss of lives,” Ezike said earlier this week. “I’m trying to be as blunt as possible and give the real facts here.”

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Thursday’s caseload is slightly lower than the 1,922 new cases the state averaged each day over the last two weeks. That figure is almost triple the state’s running average as of June 27, when the state was coming down from its initial peak.

The 24 latest deaths were slightly above Illinois’ average daily toll of about 20 over the last two weeks. The state was averaging 16 deaths per day this time last month.

The new cases were confirmed among 44,510 tests, raising the statewide testing positivity rate over the last week to 4.1%.

High positivity rates, which indicate how rapidly the virus is spreading, prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to roll back bar and restaurant service last week in the downstate Metro East region, which is still at a whopping 10% positivity. The Democratic governor banned indoor dining altogether this week in Will and Kankakee counties, which are at 8.3% positivity.

An 8% positivity rate running for three consecutive days triggers a state intervention. Chicago is at 5.5% and suburban Cook County at 6.7%.

Since March, nearly 3.9 million Illinoisans have been tested for COVID-19, more than 227,000 have tested positive and 7,977 of those have died.