‘MILD UPTICK’ IN CASES PROMPTS PRITZKER TO WORRY STATE GO­ING ‘WRONG DI­REC­TION’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@sun­times.com | @mitchtrout

An­other day, an­other coro­n­avirus case tally mea­sured in four dig­its — and it all adds up to more worry for Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

As public health of­fi­cials an­nounced Thurs­day an­other 1,257 peo­ple tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19 in Illi­nois, the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor ac­knowl­edged he’s con­cerned the state could soon take a step back­ward in its pan­demic fight.

“Now that we have a mas­sive uptick in cases all across the coun­try, my con­fi­dence level is, you know, chal­lenged,” Pritzker said at a Rock­ford news con­fer­ence.

“And then I look at the state of Illi­nois, and al­though we’ve had a mild uptick, it’s one that I watch ev­ery day be­cause any­body that knows any­thing about epi­demics knows that when you have a mild uptick, that’s an in­di­ca­tor you’re head­ing the wrong di­rec­tion, and it may mul­ti­ply. So we want to make sure we get a han­dle on that.”

The Illi­nois Depart­ment of Public Health also an­nounced an ad­di­tional 25 deaths have been at­trib­uted to the coro­n­avirus, rais­ing the state death toll to 7,251.

The new cases were de­tected among a record-high batch of 43,006 test re­sults re­ceived by the state, good for a test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate of 2.9% for the day.

That kept the state’s rolling pos­i­tiv­ity rate over the last week at 3.1%, a num­ber that has health of­fi­cials on edge as it has climbed up from 2.5% early last week.

Fol­low­ing a peak month of May, daily caseloads ex­ceeded 1,000 just twice in June. That has al­ready hap­pened five times mid­way through July, with the state av­er­ag­ing about 923 new cases each day.

To fend off a po­ten­tially se­vere resur­gence, Pritzker a day ear­lier re­tooled his re­open­ing plan to fur­ther di­vide the state into 11 re­gions, in­clud­ing sep­a­rate ones for Chicago and the Cook County sub­urbs.

Pritzker’s of­fice says it’s tak­ing a “gran­u­lar ap­proach” in mon­i­tor­ing each re­gion for sus­tained out­breaks that could re­sult in res­tau­rants, bars and other busi­nesses be­ing forced to close their doors yet again fol­low­ing a dev­as­tat­ing three-month shut­down.

Such “mit­i­ga­tions” could be on the ta­ble for a re­gion if it sees a sus­tained in­crease in rolling pos­i­tiv­ity rates, plus one of the fol­low­ing red flags: in­creased hospi­tal ad­mis­sions, re­duced hospi­tal ca­pac­ity or three days av­er­ag­ing a pos­i­tiv­ity rate of 8% or more.

While case to­tals have trended up­ward in July, av­er­age daily coro­n­avirus death tolls this month have fallen to about 21 per day, com­pared to about 37 per day over the last two weeks of June.

“It’s un­avoid­ably true that the num­bers are go­ing up,” Univer­sity of Chicago epi­demi­ol­o­gist Dr. Emily Lan­don told the Sun-Times. “We’re in a risk pe­riod. It looks OK to­day, but the trend sug­gests that may not last. I think we’re on the precipice of im­prov­ing or wors­en­ing.

“And it will come down to per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. We don’t need Lori Light­foot to close bars for peo­ple to say, ‘I’m just not gonna go tonight.’ We can make those de­ci­sions our­selves, for the good of ev­ery­one.”

The youngest fa­tal­ity an­nounced Thurs­day was a Cook County man in his 30s.

Pa­tients in the 18-29 age range have ac­counted for much of the re­cent uptick in in­fec­tions as health of­fi­cials re­new their calls for young peo­ple to wear face cov­er­ings, wash their hands, main­tain so­cial dis­tance and stay home when pos­si­ble.

As of Mon­day night, 1,434 Illi­nois coro­n­avirus pa­tients were hos­pi­tal­ized, with 311 in in­ten­sive care units and 127 on ven­ti­la­tors.

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES

Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks with med­i­cal per­son­nel dur­ing a visit to a mo­bile COVID-19 test­ing sta­tion at Ed­ward Coles School last week.

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