Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@sun­ | @mitchtrout

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 full­blown 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.”

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%.

Pos­i­tiv­ity rates fell slightly in the Metro East and south­ern Illi­nois re­gions, hot spots 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.”

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.


A nurse prac­ti­tioner holds the hand of a pa­tient while a doc­tor ad­min­is­ters an IV at Rose­land Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal in April.

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