As Illinois announces new coronavirus mitigation strategies, the state continues to cope with its biggest surge in COVID cases since last fall, along with rapidly increasing hospitalizations and deaths across the state because of the virus.
According to the latest figures released by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state recorded 4,041 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours. That marks the fourth time in the last seven days that the state has hit that 4,000 daily case milestone, a number the state had previously only hit twice since the end of a surge in cases in late January.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois is averaging 3,445 new cases of COVID-19 per day, and while that is down slightly from numbers over the weekend, it still represents the highest average the state has seen since cases peaked on Jan. 8 at 7,704 per day.
The state also reported 60 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 on Thursday, the most it has recorded in a single day since reporting 63 fatalities on Feb. 19.
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Hospitalizations also continued their recent upward trend on Thursday, with 2,184 COVID patients currently in Illinois. That is the highest number the state has seen since April, according to IDPH data.
More worryingly, intensive care unit bed availability has been decreasing all across the state, especially in the far southern portions of Illinois. In Region 5, comprised of 20 counties in the southern tip of the state, just six ICU beds out of 89 are currently available. In Region 1, located in northwestern Illinois, 18 beds are available out of 171, and 22 beds are available in Region 3, located near Springfield.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker warns that those regions could see all of their ICU beds occupied by COVID patients in the coming weeks if hospitalization numbers don’t begin to go down, and warned that stronger mitigations could be in the offing to prevent that from happening.
There is at least some positive news among the COVID numbers, as the city of Chicago is reporting fewer COVID cases this week than it did a week ago. According to the city, Chicago is averaging 443 cases of COVID per day, still above the 400 threshold that triggered a new mask mandate, but 5% lower than what was reported last week.
Hospitalizations are also trending downward in the city, with 27 new hospitalizations per day, a 13% decrease over a week ago.
The city’s positivity rate has also been dropping in recent days, falling to 4.3% after topping out at 4.6% last week.
State officials are also continuing to push residents to get COVID vaccines, pointing to the dramatic disparity in numbers of hospitalizations and severe cases between vaccinated and unvaccinated residents. According to the latest data released Wednesday, there have been 1,190 fully vaccinated individuals hospitalized because of COVID, representing just 0.018% of the vaccinated population in the state.
Of those, 253 have passed away, marking 0.004% of fully vaccinated individuals in the state.
As of Thursday, just under 62% of the state’s residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID, with 67.44% of residents receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.