With Illinois seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases, health officials across the state say that cases among younger residents are largely driving that increase.
According to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, cases among residents between the ages of 10 and 19 are rising to rates that haven’t been seen thus far in the pandemic.
“You’ve never seen this high rate for the 10-to-19 (demographic),” she said during a Wednesday press conference. “That is new in terms of the numbers climbing over time. They’re now at the highest rate they’ve ever had from the beginning of this pandemic.”
According to numbers provided by the governor's press office, there have been at least 100 cases reported among Illinois residents between the ages of 10 and 19 on seven of the last eight days, including 158 new cases in that demographic on July 11.
Prior to that run of new cases, there had been just one day since June 1 that had seen at least 100 cases in that age group.
Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, also cited an increase in cases among residents between the ages of 18 and 29 as a driving force behind increases in cases in recent days.
“Where we’re seeing changes in COVID cases is in that 18-to-29 (range),” she said. “For the most recent week, we see the increase again, in that Lincoln Park area as well as in New City in the south.”
The Illinois zip code reporting the highest number of new coronavirus cases in that particular age group has been in the Lincoln Park area, with the 60614 zip code picking up that distinction.
While Ezike says she understands that teens and young adults want to go out and to see their friends, she says that if the current increase in cases continues, it could put a return to in-person instruction in schools in jeopardy.
“I have teenagers. They’ve been on lockdown, and they’re complaining that their friends are out and about and kids are congregating, having gatherings and trips,” she said. “We know that if schools are to happen, there has to be masking and distancing, but to get there we have to not have widespread community transmission at rates that are not sustainable to even do school. That’s why our actions today, right now will determine what school even looks like.”
According to data from the IDPH, the state’s rolling 7-day average of new coronavirus cases has risen to more than 1,000 new cases per day, the first time the number has been that high since early June.
In response, health officials have broached the idea of re-introducing some restrictions to stem the tide of new cases, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker split the state into 11 healthcare regions on Wednesday in an effort to more precisely target which areas those restrictions could impact.