Illinois reached a grim milestone in its fight against coronavirus Thursday, topping one million cases since the pandemic first began.
State health officials reported 8,757 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, along with 177 additional deaths attributed to the virus, bringing statewide totals to 1,008,045 cases, including 17,272 deaths, since the pandemic began last year.
“In a pandemic that has contained far too many tragic milestones, today’s marking of one million cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Illinois deserves particular recognition,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “As this disease continues to wreak havoc on our nation – with the United States setting another record for the most COVID-19 deaths in a day just yesterday – it is critical that we take extra caution today and in the months ahead to reduce the spread, bring down hospitalization rates, and save lives. Now that vaccine distribution has begun, we can see the light at the end of this difficult time – let’s do everything we can to ensure all of our neighbors are able to be there as we cross that finish line, healthy as well."
In all, 105,518 tests have been returned to state laboratories in the last 24 hours, a marked increase from the day before. The latest testing numbers brought the state total to 13,803,946 tests conducted throughout the pandemic.
The rolling seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of tests decreased to 8.5% as of Thursday, up from 8.4% Wednesday, according to IDPH. But the positivity rate of all tests was 9.8%, a decrease from the day before.
According to IDPH data, 3,921 patients were hospitalized due to coronavirus as of Tuesday night, a slight increase from the previous day. Of those patients, 783 were in intensive care units, while 450 patients were on ventilators.
Illinois ended 2020 with 963,389 cases and 16,490 deaths. The Chicago area alone saw a total of 723,235 people infected for the year.
Still, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday the state's 11 regions can begin lifting Tier 3 restrictions as early as next week if they've met the right metrics.
"I’m cautiously optimistic as there are some early signs indicating that some regions have made real progress and won’t reverse that progress this week or next," Pritzker said. "So on Jan. 15, exactly one incubation period from New Year’s Day, any region that has met the metrics for a reduction of mitigations will be able to move out of Tier Three of our mitigation plan."
All of Illinois have been under Tier 3 mitigations since Nov. 20, which have lowered capacity limitations for outdoor dining and other activities, suspended indoor dining entirely, shut down indoor recreation venues like theaters and casinos and increased other restrictions.
The state also recently announced its guidelines as it prepares for Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout.
“As the vaccine rolls out, our hope, and goal, is that the number of new cases we see each day will decrease,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Reporting more than one million COVID-19 cases in Illinois seemed like an unlikely number at the beginning of the pandemic, and we’ve now all seen how devastating this disease can be. I urge everyone to continue to wear their mask, avoid social gatherings, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”