coronavirus illinois

Here's Why Herd Immunity Would Not Work to Treat the Coronavirus in Illinois

Some have suggested 60% to 80% of a population would have to contract a disease to reach "herd immunity"

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Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike explained Friday why herd immunity could be a fatal option in treating the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Ezike said herd immunity suggests that a percentage of an entire population would have to contract a disease to be considered "immune," with estimates reaching 60% to 80%.

Currently, Ezike estimated that nearly 5% to 10% of Illinois has been affected by COVID-19 and the state has reported over 10,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

"We got 10,000 deaths to get five to 10% of the people to have had the infection," Ezike said. "The thought of how many people would need to get the infection and die to get to that 60, 70, 80% is unfathomable. And so that is not, I dare say, that's not a moral way to approach this."

Illinois reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, setting a new one-day record for the second day in a row as the state's positivity rate continues to climb.

The state reported 10,376 new coronavirus cases and 49 additional deaths in the previous 24 hours, according to the latest data released Friday by IDPH.

The latest figures bring Illinois' total to 465,540 cases and 10,079 deaths across the state since the pandemic began. The total number of cases increased by more than 18,000 (well above the 10,000 confirmed cases reported Friday) from the figures released the day before due to a change in the way probable cases are being reported moving forward, officials said.

Illinois' coronavirus data will look a little different going forward as health officials have changed the way they report new cases and deaths.

IDPH said beginning Friday, officials will "report confirmed cases and probable cases combined" under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"A confirmed case is laboratory confirmed via molecular test. A probable case meets clinical criteria AND is epidemiologically linked, or has a positive antigen test," IDPH said in announcing the new cases and change in reporting. "If a probable case is later confirmed, the case will be deduplicated and will only be counted once. Probable deaths and confirmed deaths will continue to be reported separately."

Illinois began distributing rapid antigen tests from the federal government last month, and the state's top doctor expects as more of those tests are conducted "we will get more probable cases."

"Now that we have gotten hundreds of thousands of tests from the federal government, and we've been passing those out to local health departments in different places where we're piloting its use, those are not considered when you get the positive test in that those are not considered confirmed cases, those are called probable cases," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "But we are treating - I mean, that is a positive. You have COVID if you come up with a positive test on that BinaxNOW test. So that is part of our caseload in terms of people who now have been diagnosed with COVID, and that we need to identify their contacts and that they need to isolate, etc. So total will now be the combination of confirmed cases, plus probable cases."

"The antigen test, particularly the ones that the federal government has distributed to us and to many other states, are a little less sensitive than the PCR tests," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday. "So that's why they're, you know, slightly, I don't want to say they're less accurate - I mean, they have a different sensitivity level. And the result is that that's why they've been labeled slightly differently. But if you get an antigen test done, and it tests you positive, it is very, very likely that you are a positive."

In addition, the state has added all probable cases from the pandemic so far to its total number of cases, meaning the statewide total increased by 7,600.

"If we go back, trying to remember the time where we didn't have 100,000 tests a day, there was a time when we said, if you have the symptoms, you're around somebody who has COVID, you have the fever, you have this, you have that - you have COVID. You don't need to get a test, partly because we didn't have access for everyone," Ezike said. "So those individuals that were made known to the local health department also got listed as probable cases because they were linked to someone who was known to have it, but didn't have a confirmatory test. So those probable cases had been counted, but we've never included them. Now, we're bringing all of that data back for probable cases - the antigen forms, probable cases - and putting it with our confirmed cases from the molecular test."

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