coronavirus metrics

COVID by the Numbers: 1 Year After the Worst Days of the Pandemic, Here's Where Illinois Stands

NBC Universal, Inc.

For the second year in a row, the state of Illinois is seeing increases in COVID cases during the month of November, but even as officials keep a wary eye on the data, things are still nowhere near as bad as they were at this time in 2020.

Nov. 16 and 17, 2020 represented the highest-number of average daily COVID cases that the state of Illinois had seen during the entire pandemic, capping off a rapid surge in cases that coincided with cooler weather and more residents congregating in indoor spaces.

On those two days, the state was averaging nearly 12,400 new cases of coronavirus per day, a staggering number that strained medical systems to their limit and forced state officials to implement new restrictions on restaurants, businesses and more.

By Dec. 2, that number had dropped significantly, back to 9,019 per day, but bumped back up to more than 9,300 cases per day in the following days after a Thanksgiving-triggered spike in cases.

This year, cases are once again on the rise in the month of November, but at levels that are just one-quarter of what they were a year ago. According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state of Illinois is averaging 3,553 new cases of coronavirus per day. While that is nearly a 72% increase from the 2,069 new daily cases the state was averaging just three weeks ago, it still falls well short of other increases in cases.

For example, this year’s spike in COVID cases still represents a 71% decrease compared to the surges from last November. It is also lower than the surge the state saw following the spread of the delta variant over the summer, with cases topping out at 4,440 per day in early September.

Hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions are also down significantly, both from that November 2020 peak and from the delta-driven peak earlier this year. Last November, the state topped out at 6,175 hospitalizations on Nov. 20, and at 1,224 ICU admissions on Nov. 25.

As COVID-19 cases in Chicago continue to creep up, the highest rate of transmission the city is seeing is among unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds. 

This year, the state is currently at 1,609 COVID hospitalizations, a mark 74% lower than last fall, and at 325 ICU admissions, 73.4% lower than the peak of last year.

If this year’s fall bump in COVID cases is going to follow a similar pattern to last year, then the state will likely see increases following both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Last year, cases jumped from 9,000 per day to more than 9,300 per day after Thanksgiving, and from 5,243 per day to nearly 7,000 per day after Christmas.

The mass-production and distribution of the COVID vaccine helped drive cases down dramatically after that brief spike in January.

While there were limits on indoor service and capacity at restaurants and businesses imposed during the holiday season a year ago, there appear to be no such plans in the works at this time, with Dr. Allison Arwady of the Chicago Department of Public Health saying that she doesn’t anticipate “lockdowns” in response to current increases in cases.

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