Illi­nois sees high­est daily to­tal of new COVID-19 cases since early June

Pritzker blames ‘virus de­niers’ as state sees high­est daily COVID-19 caseload since early June

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT,

Illi­nois sees its worst day for new coro­n­avirus cases in more than seven weeks, the test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate steadily rises — and Gov. J.B. Pritzker sees only one place to point the fin­ger.

“The en­emy is not your mask. If you’re not wear­ing a mask in pub­lic, you’re en­dan­ger­ing ev­ery­one around you, so the en­emy is you,” the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor said Wed­nes­day.

It was his most dire warn­ing yet that Illi­nois soon could see a dev­as­tat­ing resur­gence of COVID-19 cases if res­i­dents — in­clud­ing “virus de­niers” — don’t take pre­cau­tions more se­ri­ously.

“The deadly na­ture of this virus is not a hoax. Choos­ing to go out in pub­lic with­out a mask is not a po­lit­i­cal state­ment,” Pritzker said dur­ing a Loop news con­fer­ence. “It demon­strates a cal­lous dis­re­gard for the peo­ple in your com­mu­nity and in your county and in our state and in our na­tion.”

A week after ex­press­ing worry over a “mild uptick” in Illi­nois coro­n­avirus cases, Pritzker said “our num­bers now ap­pear to be grad­u­ally ris­ing, and that’s very con­cern­ing.”

The Illi­nois De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health con­firmed an ad­di­tional 1,598 cases of the virus statewide on Wed­nes­day, the high­est to­tal an­nounced in a sin­gle day since early June.

The daily caseloads are creep­ing closer to those of May, when the state en­dured the peak im­pact of the pan­demic with an av­er­age of more than 2,100 cases an­nounced per day.

That rate shrank to about a third of that in June — about 764 new cases per day — but Illi­nois now has av­er­aged more than 1,000 cases daily so far this month.

The lat­est cases were con­firmed among 39,633 tests, rais­ing the state’s rolling pos­i­tiv­ity rate over the last week to 3.2%. That num­ber, which health of­fi­cials point to as an indi­ca­tor of how fast the virus is spread­ing through a re­gion, was at 2.5% two weeks ago.

Illi­nois’ pos­i­tiv­ity rate is still about half those of its neigh­bor­ing states, a fifth of Texas’ rate and a sixth of Florida’s — a pair of many south­ern states where cases have flared to record highs over the last month.

“A rise is still a rise, and it is on all of us to bring these num­bers down,” Pritzker said. “In ev­ery one of the states like Ari­zona and Florida that are in full-blown cri­sis right now, it started with a grad­ual rise in the num­bers. … You can go from 3% pos­i­tiv­ity to Ari­zona’s 23% pos­i­tiv­ity in the blink of an eye.”

Ten of 11 re­gions across the state each have fallen be­low 5% pos­i­tiv­ity rates, but the

Metro East re­gion near St. Louis “is com­ing dan­ger­ously close” to an 8% rate, Pritzker said. He’s asked lo­cal lead­ers there “to clamp down on the out­breaks where they’re oc­cur­ring so the state won’t have to step in,” po­ten­tially shut­ting down some busi­nesses.

Health of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day also at­trib­uted an­other 23 deaths to COVID-19, rais­ing the state’s death toll to 7,347. More than 165,000 peo­ple have con­tracted the virus among 2.3 mil­lion who have been tested.

Still, the gov­er­nor touted “tremen­dous progress” made in Illi­nois since March, in­clud­ing launch­ing 280 test­ing sites that com­prise one of the na­tion’s largest pro­grams.

And about 1,600 con­tact trac­ers are now work­ing across the state to pin­point sources of out­breaks and alert res­i­dents to po­ten­tial ex­po­sures. A spokes­woman for Pritzker’s health de­part­ment an­nounced it’s bol­ster­ing those ef­forts with more than $200 mil­lion in ad­di­tional state fund­ing to lo­cal health de­part­ments and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions to ex­pand trac­ing out­side Cook County.

Illi­nois Pub­lic Health Di­rec­tor Dr. Ngozi Ezike said she an­tic­i­pated a rise in cases when the state en­tered Phase 4 of re­open­ing June 26, and she em­pha­sized that con­tain­ing the virus’ spread is now up to “the ef­forts of ev­ery­day peo­ple to do their part.”

“You prob­a­bly have seen peo­ple crowd­ing into bars, ar­eas where peo­ple are not wear­ing masks, or not main­tain­ing 6 feet of so­cial dis­tance,” Ezike said, com­par­ing those “sim­ple mea­sures” to wear­ing a seat belt.

“This is not about re­strict­ing free­dom; this is about de­creas­ing the trans­mis­sion of this virus, which ul­ti­mately saves lives. It’s that plain and that sim­ple. This is about your ac­tions and what you can do to keep your com­mu­nity safe.”

SCOTT P. YATES/ROCKFORD REG­IS­TER STAR VIA AP, FILE

A week after ex­press­ing worry over a “mild uptick” in state COVID-19 cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said “our num­bers now ap­pear to be grad­u­ally ris­ing, and that’s very con­cern­ing.”

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ /SUN-TIMES FILE

Jabari Leeper gets tested for COVID-19 at a mo­bile COVID-19 test­ing sta­tion at Ed­ward Coles School ear­lier this month.

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