Note: Any news conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or other officials will be streamed in the video player above.
The state of Illinois over the weekend surpassed 720,000 coronavirus cases and has seen more than 12,000 deaths since the pandemic began earlier this year, according to health officials.
Meanwhile, the very first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport over the weekend, NBC News has learned.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the state of Illinois today (Nov. 30):
Illinois Reports 7,178 New Coronavirus Cases, 57 Additional Deaths
Illinois health officials reported 7,178 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, along with 57 additional deaths.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state has now confirmed 720,114 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, along with 12,193 confirmed fatalities. The state is also reporting 689 deaths that are classified as “probable” COVID-19 fatalities.
Sunday was a down day in terms of testing in the state, with 62,740 tests performed in the last 24 hours. In all, the state has performed 10,431,018 tests during the pandemic.
The state’s positivity rate now stands at 10.1% on all tests conducted, including residents who have been tested multiple times. In the last seven days, the positivity rate for individuals tested for the virus now stands at 12.1%.
Hospitalizations in the state ticked upward on Sunday, with 5,858 patients currently in hospitals statewide. Of those patients, 1,185 are currently using ICU beds, authorities say.
Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives at Chicago's O'Hare Airport: Source
The very first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on a United Airlines flight from Brussels, Belgium, NBC News has learned.
As reported Saturday, a source said "United Airlines has already flown its first chartered cargo flight to the United States from Brussels to Chicago with the vaccine on board."
However, it remained unclear how many doses were on board or when exactly the cargo shipment arrived at O'Hare.
United Airlines didn't confirm any details about the flight, but in a statement said, "United Cargo established a COVID Readiness Task Team earlier this summer to help ensure we have the right people, products, services, and partnerships in place to support a vaccine distribution effort on a global scale."
Pfizer is still seeking emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The pharmaceutical giant completed its phase three trial and found the vaccine to be 95% percent.
An emergency meeting is scheduled for next week. Advisors to the CDC plan to meet on Tuesday to vote on who should be the first to get the vaccine.
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart Tests Positive for COVID-19
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart has tested positive for coronavirus and is quarantining at his home, officials announced Saturday.
According to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Dart was tested for the virus on Tuesday and received his positive test results on Friday.
The sheriff was last in the office on Nov. 19. He began to feel symptoms of the virus on Friday and immediately self-quarantined.
Dart is still experiencing coronavirus symptoms, and is recovering at home, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office recently suspended in-person visitation at the Cook County Jail as a result of a second wave of coronavirus cases in Chicago. Weekly testing for employees has also been instituted through a partnership with Loretto Hospital, which was announced earlier this week.
“We are doing all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 inside the walls of the jail and to protect our staff,” Dart said in a statement. “This added testing capacity will help us to identify and block the virus from entering the jail from the outside, while also protecting the officers and the communities in which they live.”
Deck the Halls? Not at the Illinois Capitol Due to COVID-19
The coronavirus has extinguished some traditional holiday cheer at the Illinois Capitol.
There will be no Christmas tree nor any holiday displays inside or outside the building, The State Journal-Register reported.
The Capitol for months has been closed to all but employees and others with permission. Tours were suspended months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lights on the Capitol dome won’t be used for the second consecutive year. Engineers have recommended that an observation deck, which is typically used to anchor the lights, should be fortified.
27 Veterans Die in COVID-19 Outbreak at Illinois VA Home
State officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans nursing home in Illinois that has infected nearly 200 residents and staff, and killed 27 veterans.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office and the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs are attempting to determine what caused the outbreak at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home in LaSalle, about 90 miles southwest of Chicago.
The department on Tuesday requested an independent probe into the facility, which was the focus of a state Senate committee virtual hearing on the outbreak.
“The tragedy of what has unfolded at the veterans’ home cannot be understated," said state Sen. Sue Rezin, who represents the district where the home is located. “I’m glad that the director has called for an independent investigation and agree that there are lesson to be learned from this terrible outbreak that has claimed the lives of 27 of our nation’s heroes.”
The current outbreak was identified in late October when a staff member and a resident tested positive for the virus. Since the beginning of November, two-thirds of residents and employees have tested positive, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
“November 4th, there were only four cases of COVID within the home,” Rezin said Monday. “Very quickly within the past 20 days, we’ve had almost 200 cases.”
Dr. Avery Hart, a consultant for the state’s Public Health department, said at the hearing that all 16 long-term care facilities in LaSalle County have had outbreaks.
“It is no coincidence that cases within the home began to rise just as cases rose dramatically within the surrounding community,” Veterans Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia testified Tuesday at the hearing.
State officials have increased staff testing at the facility, and the governor said an infection control team was sent to the home. As of Tuesday morning, 40 of 101 residents and 24 staff members had tested positive for the virus.
What Illinois Health Officials Say Could be Early Signs of a Post-Thanksgiving Surge
As airports and travel hubs fill up with Thanksgiving travelers despite warnings from health officials in the state and country, experts are bracing for the potential of a post-Thanksgiving coronavirus surge.
But what will that look like?
According to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the first sign of a surge will be an increase in cases one to two weeks after the holiday.
"That will be a sign that maybe there was spreading at the Thanksgiving holiday," Ezike said during a briefing Wednesday.
Health experts have long said that hospitalizations and deaths typically follow a spike in cases, so those numbers will likely be the first indicator.
Here's When Anyone Potentially Exposed at Thanksgiving Should Get a COVID Test
Although federal and state health officials are encouraging residents not to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, officials do have a recommendation for those who fear that they’ve come into contact with the virus over the holiday.
During a press availability Wednesday, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezikie said that state residents who fear they’ve been exposed to the virus should not immediately rush out and get tested, saying that unless they’re showing symptoms, they should wait at least one week prior to getting tested.
“We would like people to wait at least a week,” she said. “We know it can take up to 14 days to show the signs of infection if you got infected, but most people who will show a positive test by day seven.”
Although Ezike says that most infections show symptoms within a week of exposure to the virus, that is not always the case, and that residents should exercise caution for 14 days after a potential exposure.
“Always wear your mask and try to keep distance if you have been in a high-risk setting and you know you’ve potentially come into contact with others,” she said. “Take precautions before you get a test result.”
Ezike also cautioned state residents not to use a negative test as an excuse to halt quarantining, saying that residents can certainly test negative for the virus and then later test positive if they begin to develop symptoms.
Ezike also emphasized that residents should get tested as soon as possible if they begin to show symptoms of the virus.
Symptoms of the virus widely vary, and some patients who are diagnosed with the virus could show mild-to-no symptoms at all. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
Chicago's COVID Hospitalizations, Deaths May Not Peak for Several Weeks: Arwady
Chicago's coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths likely won't peak for several weeks, possibly even longer if the city sees a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases, according to the city's top public health official.
With Thanksgiving approaching, both Chicago and state health officials have expressed concerns over the rising number of coronavirus hospitalizations, but Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said a mid-December peak is an optimistic estimate.
As of Wednesday, Chicago reported more than 1,000 patients in hospitals with COVID-19 and more than 300 people in intensive care units. Both of those numbers mark an increased from early October and the city has "not seen any slowing."
According to Arwady, there's usually a 17-day lag between a rise in cases and a surge in ICU patients. Because of that, Chicago's hospitalizations could peak in mid-December, followed later by a peak in deaths.
"That would be if we can hold the very early progress that we have seen," she said. "And that's a big if I think across the country. There has not been any signs of flattening at all in hospitalizations or breaking records. And there's not going to be a lot of capacity to surge hospital staff, in particular, between regions. So the reason we're kind of, you know, have sounded this alarm so strongly is that an unmitigated rise in cases does lead inevitably to an unmitigated rise and hospitalizations. And then ICUs and then deaths."
Since Oct. 19, COVID-19 deaths have risen four times, Arwady noted.
"We're up to almost 100 deaths every week among Chicago residents," she said. "Even if this surge was done right now we would not expect our deaths to peak for several weeks."
More Than 1 Chicagoan Being Diagnosed With COVID Every Minute, City's Top Doc Says
Chicago's coronavirus cases are now at a point where more than one resident is being diagnosed with COVID-19 every minute, according to the city's top doctor.
"If we look at our case numbers we are now averaging still nearly 2,000 new cases diagnosed every day in Chicago residents," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Wednesday as she urged people to avoid gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday. "That's six times what we were seeing in September, 10 times what we were seeing in June and we still have more than one Chicago being diagnosed with COVID every minute, assuming that we're testing 24 hours per day."
As of Wednesday, data showed more than 150,000 Chicago residents have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the pandemic began in the spring. Of those cases, 15% remain active, 83% have recovered and 2% have died, Arwady said. She noted, however, that the actual number of infections is estimated to be five to seven times higher when accounting for people who did not get tested or who have shown no symptoms.
"That means our estimate is between 110,000 and 160,000 Chicagoans have active, meaning infectious, COVID right now," Arwady said. "And that means as many as one in 17 Chicagoans still has active COVID right now. That's a tiny bit better than it was last week, where one in 15 Chicagoans had active COVID, but one in 17 Chicagoans is in that range. Between one in 17 and one in 25 is at a point where it is not safe to gather and where we need everybody as we have directed under the stay-at-home advisory to be staying home unless it's for work, school or essential purposes."
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