Illinois’ average daily COVID-19 caseload more than doubled over past month as ‘virus continues to ravage people of all ages’

“The state is very clearly trending upward,” said Dr. Andrew Trotter, an infectious disease professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. “People really have to understand that they have a responsibility to follow the guidelines of social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.”

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Nurse practitioner Capri Reese talks to a patient and holds her hand while a doctor administers an IV at Roseland Community Hospital in April.

Nurse practitioner Capri Reese talks to a patient and holds her hand while a doctor administers an IV at Roseland Community Hospital in April.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times file

Public health officials on Thursday announced Illinois’ largest coronavirus caseload in over 10 weeks, with 1,953 more people testing positive for COVID-19 across the state.

The latest jump comes a week after Illinois logged 1,941 cases, which had been the highest since more than 2,500 cases were reported May 24 when the state was coming down from its initial pandemic peak.

But since Illinois cases fell to a valley in mid-June, a deluge of outbreaks among young people has fueled a steady COVID-19 rise that has the state on the verge of a full-blown resurgence, experts say.

“We’re already at about half the level we were during the peak,” said Dr. Andrew Trotter, an infectious disease professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

“The state is very clearly trending upward. People really have to understand that they have a responsibility to follow the guidelines of social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands,” Trotter said. “It’s predictable what’s going to happen if we don’t do that.”

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That would be a return to the peak levels seen in the spring. During the two-week stretch that included the state’s largest ever caseload — 4,014 cases reported May 12 — the state was averaging more than 2,300 cases per day.

“If we don’t take further steps to reduce the spread of the virus, our numbers will continue to go up, and we will be right back where we were just a few months ago,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday. “Anyone who thinks that wearing a mask or keeping their distance doesn’t help — you are just wrong. Both of those incredibly simple actions have been shown to slow the spread of the virus and decrease the number of cases.”

Illinois is now averaging 1,536 new cases per day over the last two weeks — more than double the 760 cases per day as of July 6.

Downstate flare-ups have accounted for much of the escalation, but testing positivity rates have inflated across 10 of the 11 medical regions designated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

The newest cases were confirmed among 41,686 tests, raising the statewide positivity rate back to 4%.

That number, which indicates how quickly the virus is spreading in a region, hadn’t touched 4% in two months until this week, and was down to 2.5% less than a month ago.

Chicago’s positivity rate is at 4.9%, while suburban Cook County is at 5.7%.

Harwood Heights Mayor Arlene Jezierny gets her blood drawn for a coronavirus antibody test on May 1.

Harwood Heights Mayor Arlene Jezierny gets her blood drawn for a coronavirus antibody test on May 1.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Positivity rates fell slightly in the Metro East and southern Illinois regions, hotspots that Pritzker has visited in recent weeks urging local officials to tighten up enforcement of social distancing and masking regulations to tamp down cases.

Those regions have been flirting with the 8% positivity rate that would trigger a state intervention including business shutdowns; Metro East and southern Illinois are now at 6.9% and 6.8%, respectively.

“This virus continues to ravage people of all ages and across the entire state,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “Let’s do the things that we can control, and that will keep you safe.”

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 in July.

Neal Earley/Chicago Sun-Times file

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Thursday also announced 21 additional deaths have been tied to COVID-19. A total of 7,594 residents have died among at least 188,424 who have tested positive for the virus since March. More than 2.9 million tests have been administered.

Officials are expecting deaths to rise in the weeks ahead as coronavirus hospitalizations slowly tick upward.

As of Wednesday night, 1,517 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 346 in intensive care units and 132 on ventilators.

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