‘MILD UPTICK’ IN CASES PROMPTS PRITZKER TO WORRY STATE GOING ‘WRONG DIRECTION’
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.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker talks with medical personnel during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 testing station at Edward Coles School last week.