Illinois' total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose above 15,000 Wednesday as the number of new infections and deaths marked the state's highest daily increase since the pandemic began earlier this year.
With more than 1,500 new cases and 82 additional deaths reported in the last 24 hours, the total number of cases in the state sits at 15,078 with 462 fatalities, state health officials announced.
Cases have been reported in 78 of Illinois' 102 counties.
"These are our highest numbers to date," Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said, adding that "the rate at which they're increasing is less and that is a good sign."
"We're not seeing the exponential growth we were seeing before," she said.
Ezike said it remains unclear when Illinois will reach its peak number of cases.
"We're hoping that we're getting close to either the peak or the plateau," she said. "It's not clear how long that will be. It's really hard to get specific days like we're x days away from the peak, but we think we're heading in that direction and we will continue to follow the data and give you more as we get it."
"There are reasons to see glimmers of hope here in the numbers," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, noting that some models are indicating the state's death rate could be lower than expected.
"We are seeing a change in these numbers and it has directly to do with the orders we put in place," he added. "People staying home, washing their hands."
At the same time, officials worry that warm weather could lead to an increase in cases as residents look to head outside.
Temperatures in the Chicago area Tuesday rose to levels not seen in 189 days, according to NBC 5 Storm Team meteorologists. And warm conditions continued Wednesday for many.
"We know the strategies that we've employed are working," Ezike said. "Let's not stop now. Let's be all in Illinois."
Chicago on Thursday begins a citywide liquor sales curfew in an effort to stop congregations at area businesses selling alcohol.
"We are putting this curfew in place because too many individuals and businesses have been violating the stay-at-home order," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.
The 9 p.m. curfew will remain in effect through the remainder of the statewide stay-at-home order, which lasts through April 30.
"We are not messing around with this," Lightfoot said.
Illinois has been working to bring once-shuttered hospitals back online and has transformed Chicago's McCormick Place convention center into an alternate care facility for hundreds of patients with mild symptoms.
Across Illinois and the country, Americans are being encouraged to wear masks or face coverings if they have to head outside.