Note: Press conferences from Gov. J.B. Pritzker or Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be streamed live in the video player above.
A new saliva-based coronavirus test developed at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign puts the state on the "cutting edge of testing innovation on a national level," Illinois' top health official said in announcing the new test on Wednesday.
That announcement came as Illinois set a new one-day testing record on Wednesday, conducting more than 50,000 tests in a 24-hour period for the first time since the pandemic began.
While the state conducted more tests in a single day than ever before, revealing nearly 3,000 new cases, the positivity rate continued to slowly increase - as did the rolling 7-day average number of daily new cases. That figure put Illinois over the threshold at which it would theoretically be included on Chicago's emergency travel order requiring a 14-day quarantine.
Here are the latest coronavirus headlines from around the state today, Aug. 20:
Illinois Reports 1,832 New Coronavirus Cases as State Sets Another Daily Testing Record
Health officials in Illinois confirmed 1,832 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday as the state reported a daily testing record for the second day in a row.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Health, the total number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic so far now sits at 213,721.
Thursday's 27 additional deaths bring the state’s death toll from the virus to 7,833 total fatalities.
According to officials, a total of 51,612 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, marking yet another daily record and bringing the statewide total to 3,541,183.
Thursday's new test results also keep the state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate at 4.4%, according to newly available data.
Hospitalization numbers were held steady Thursday, with 1,519 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in the state. Of those patients, 357 are currently housed in intensive care units, while 124 patients are currently on ventilators.
Saliva-Based Coronavirus Test Developed by U of I Puts Illinois on ‘Cutting Edge,' Officials Say
For the first time, Illinois health officials are beginning to utilize a new saliva-based coronavirus test developed at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus, and as a result the state was able to conduct more than 50,000 new COVID-19 tests over the last 24 hours.
“This development by the University of Illinois is truly going to have the effect of helping us (with) fast testing, fast results, isolating people faster and contact tracing,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “All of those things have an enormously positive effect.”
According to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the saliva tests, recently given a green light by the Food and Drug Administration under the administration’s emergency use authorization powers, were included in Wednesday’s testing totals for the first time, allowing the state to set a new record for coronavirus tests within a 24-hour period.
“Today’s news puts the University of Illinois and the entire state of Illinois on the cutting edge of testing innovation on a national level,” Ezike said. “And let me just say to (University of Illinois) President Dr. Tim Killeen, the state of Illinois looks forward to being your biggest customer.”
According to Ezike and other health officials, the saliva-based tests are a major breakthrough in coronavirus testing for multiple reasons, including their cheaper costs, faster results and relative ease of accessing the materials needed to conduct and screen the tests.
“Even among the very few saliva tests available globally, it’s one of the least expensive and potentially most effective now on the market,” Ezike said.
According to Dr. Killeen, the test is very inexpensive compared to other testing kits, with a cost of just $10 per kit. Those students who take the test can have test results sent directly to their phones with their test results, which will likely be available within just 24 hours instead of the several days that nose swab tests take to process.
The swab test is already being used at the university, with more than 10,000 faculty and staff members taking tests on Monday alone. That number, according to Killeen, accounted for 1.3% of the testing in the entire United States on Monday.
State officials are working to deploy the tests to more public universities across the state in coming weeks and months, and will work to make the testing available for students in K-12 schools and for residents of long-term care facilities as well.
According to Pritzker and other state officials, the tests will require several weeks to roll out to other entities, but the production process should be much faster than other more material-intensive tests, thereby helping to expedite that process.
Other schools and businesses have also begun to achieve good results with saliva-based tests, with one such test funded by the National Basketball Association gaining FDA emergency approval earlier this week. Yale University also has developed a saliva-test for COVID-19.
Flu Season Could Have Even Bigger Impact in Age of Coronavirus, Doctors Warn
The coronavirus already poses a serious threat to healthcare systems in the United States, but with the fall approaching, doctors and health officials are warning that a bad flu season could cause even greater challenges.
Dr. Sharon Welbel of the Cook County Health System says the effects on the healthcare system could be devastating if this year’s flu season is as bad as ones in years past.
“We know that millions of people every year in the United States get influenza,” Welbel said. “Thousands of people, probably over 60,000 people last year, died of the flu.”
Now, with coronavirus cases on the rise in Illinois and many neighboring states, Welbel says the risk of some patients contracting both viruses is a very real and serious threat.
“People can get the flu and COVID at the same time, and one can imagine how incredibly ill one can become having both diseases at the same time,” Welbel said. “The other issues are diagnostic difficulties, testing difficulties, access to vaccines and so forth.”
Doctors have warned that patients exhibiting symptoms of the flu will likely have to be tested for coronavirus as well, as the two viruses do share some common symptoms.
One of the best ways to protect yourself against the flu, or to potentially ease the impact the virus can have on you, is to get a flu vaccine, and doctors are sounding the alarm this year that a flu vaccine could be more critical than ever.
“Everyone is eligible to get their flu vaccine, and you should get it every single year,” Welbel said.
Besides the flu vaccine, Welbel says there are other encouraging signs for physicians hopeful to avoid a double-whammy of surges in COVID-19 and flu cases. In Australia, where flu cases are known to generally spike before spiking in the United States, the flu season has been light so far, giving some hope that this season’s strain of the virus may not be as intense.
Scientists and doctors are also hopeful that the spread of the flu won’t be as prevalent this year due to the protective steps that individuals are already taking to avoid coronavirus, including wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home when feeling ill.
“I’m hoping that this is true, but we as individuals have to be responsible,” Welbel said. “We as individuals can make that happen by wearing our masks, social distancing and getting our flu vaccines. When COVID-19 vaccines are available, we should get vaccinated for that as well.”
Illinois Hits Metric for Inclusion on Chicago's Travel Order Requiring Quarantine, Data Shows
The state of Illinois has reached the point in its average number of new coronavirus cases where it would theoretically be included on Chicago's emergency travel order requiring anyone entering the city from more than a dozen states to quarantine for 14 days.
Public health data shows that the 7-day rolling average number of new cases in Illinois, including Chicago, stood at 15 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people as of Wednesday. That figure calculated for the state but excluding Chicago was slightly higher, at 15.1 average new cases per 100,000 people, based on data released Wednesday.
That figure is calculated as a seven-day moving average, which is the average of the number of cases on a given day plus the previous six, then adjusted for population. Public health experts say that metric is considered the norm to examine any trendline and could signal a "hot spot" for spread of the virus.
That 15 average new cases per 100,000 figure puts Illinois exactly at the line at which the city of Chicago could theoretically include it in its list of states for which the city requires a 14-day quarantine under its emergency travel order.
States are added to Chicago's quarantine list if they have "a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average," city officials say. Updated every Tuesday, that list now includes 19 states, including Iowa and Missouri, as well as Puerto Rico.
Illinois' seven-day average number of new cases, adjusted for population and calculated excluding Chicago, has been rising quickly and sharply in recent weeks. After peaking at 16.2 on May 18, the state dropped to a low of just 4.3 exactly one month later before starting to climb back up.
That rolling average was 9.2 cases per 100,000 people three weeks ago, then 11 new cases two weeks ago, reaching 13 on Aug. 6 and fluctuating slightly as it continued to increase to reach 15.1 on Wednesday.
While Chicago has fared better than the rest of the state in keeping case counts proportionally lower in recent weeks, 673 new cases reported Wednesday brings the city's rolling average of new cases to 14.5 per 100,000 people - also nearing the threshold for inclusion on its own travel order.
But don't expect the rest of Illinois to actually be added to Chicago's travel order. When asked on July 29 if city officials were considering a quarantine requirement for other locations in the state, Mayor Lori Lightfoot quickly shot that down.
"No, we're going to continue working with the governor and his team as well as [the Illinois Department of Public Health] to make sure that we are providing supports for residents here, and we can continue to educate everyone into compliance," she said.
Pritzker Says State Closely Monitoring 2 Regions for 'Troubling Trends'
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that most of Illinois' 11 regions are seeing increases in positivity rates, but two in particular are reporting "troubling trends" as the state continues to see a rise in coronavirus metrics.
Already, the state's Region 4, the Metro East region, is under stricter mitigation requirements implemented by the state after the area rose above an 8 percent positivity rate for three days in a row. As of Tuesday, the region had a positivity rate of 9.4 percent and Pritzker warned additional restrictions like the full closure of indoor dining and drinking could soon be put in place.
In addition to Region 4, Pritzker said Regions 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11 have also seen an increase in their seven-day rolling average positivity rate. Only three regions - Regions 1, 5 and 6 - have seen slight decreases.
"Across the state, our 11 Restore Illinois regions are trending in different directions, the majority of which are negative," Pritzker said.
Of those seeing increases in positivity rates, Pritzker said officials are "closely monitoring" what he called "troubling trends" in Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties, as well as Region 5 in southern Illinois.
"I want to emphasize again that local elected officials and health officials should pay close attention to the data for their communities and, where necessary, step up and impose greater mitigations on a targeted basis to bring down the number of infections and the positivity rate," Pritzker said. "Otherwise, it may only be a matter of time before the state will be forced to step in on a regional basis in other areas and impose resurgence mitigations like closing bars, indoor dining, limiting all indoor gatherings to even smaller capacity and more to reduce the spread of the virus."
Illinois Reports Nearly 2,300 New Cases of Coronavirus as State Sets Daily Testing Record
Health officials in Illinois confirmed nearly 2,300 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday as the state reported a daily testing record along with a slight rise in positivity.
According to new data from the Illinois Department of Health, the state’s 2,295 new cases bring the total number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic up to 211,889. Wednesday's 25 additional deaths bring the state’s death toll from the virus to 7,806 total fatalities.
According to officials, a total of 50,299 new tests were performed over the last 24 hours, marking a daily record and bringing the statewide total to 3,489,571.
Wednesday's new test results also bring the state’s 7-day rolling positivity rate up by one-tenth of a percent, from 4.3% to 4.4%, according to newly available data.
Hospitalization numbers were up slightly on Wednesday, with 1,519 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in the state. Of those patients, 334 are currently housed in intensive care units, while 144 patients are currently on ventilators.
Watch: Dr. Arwady Breaks Down Chicago's Latest COVID-19 Data
NBC 5 Investigates Finds Rising Coronavirus Rates Near Some Illinois Public Universities
Colleges and universities in the Chicago area continue to scrap and rewrite their return-to-campus plans, struggling with coronavirus numbers that refuse to stabilize.
Late Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana became the latest school to table plans for in-person learning. The school's president, Rev. John Jenkins, said instruction will take place exclusively online for at least the next two weeks.
For weeks, NBC 5 Investigates has been looking at the positivity rates for the area's top university communities. They certainly show that Notre Dame is not alone in facing a spike in positive tests.
The state can apply a "warning" status to places with positivity rates of 8.0% or above, while the World Health Organization expresses concern for positivity rates of 5.0% or above. Recent daily cases, per 100,000 people, can indicate an emerging "hot spot" if they exceed 10-15 daily average cases over the previous 7 days.
Here are the latest numbers for the public colleges and universities in Illinois as of Tuesday.
Southern Illinois University -- Edwardsville (SIUE)
7.9% positivity rate; 27.5 recent daily cases, per 100,000 over the past week. Students at SIUE are moving in this week, and classes start next Monday, Aug. 24.
Eastern Illinois University -- Charleston (EIU)
7.5% positivity rate; 45.2 recent average daily cases per 100,000. The school's website says it is offering free testing to new students beginning Wednesday; and then for returning students starting next Monday, Aug. 24 – the day that students begin classes.
Governor's State University -- University Park (GSU)
8.2% positivity rate; 17.4 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale (SIUC)
6.9% positivity rate; 13.1 recent average daily cases per 100,000.
University of Illinois - Springfield’s (UIS)
3.5% positivity rate; 11.6 average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Illinois State University - Normal (ISU)
3.3% positivity rate; 11.4 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Chicago State University
3.9% positivity rate; 9.0 recent average daily new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
2.8% positivity rate; 9.7 recent average daily new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Northeastern Illinois University - Chicago (NEIU)
2.7% positivity rate; 7.4 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Northern Illinois University - DeKalb (NIU)
2.8% positivity rate; 6.6 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
Western Illinois University - Macomb (WIU)
2.2% positivity rate; 5.9 recent average daily cases per 100,000 over the past week.
University of Illinois - Champaign (U of I)
0.4% positivity rate and 8.7 recent average daily new cases per 100,000 over the past week.
See How Illinois' Coronavirus Regions and Counties Compare in Key Metrics
How do each of Illinois' 11 regions and several counties across the Chicago area compare when it comes to key coronavirus metrics?
Dive into the most important data with this searchable tool that shows some of the numbers health experts examine when making decisions about potential restrictions and other efforts to slow the pandemic's spread.
Updated every evening, this chart shows the number of cases each county or region has reported in the last seven days and its total number of cases since the pandemic began.
The chart also shows each area's current positivity rate in testing, as well as two important figures adjusted for population: the total number of cases per 100,000 people, as well as the rolling average daily new case count per 100,000 people over the previous seven days.