'We are on the precipice': State reports nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 cases, 36 more deaths

  • People get tested for COVID-19 at Arlington International Racecourse in October.

    People get tested for COVID-19 at Arlington International Racecourse in October. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/30/2020 7:18 PM

New cases of COVID-19 totaled a record 6,943 Friday, an 89% spike from September averages, and deaths from the respiratory disease came to 36, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.

In September, new infections totaled 1,924 a day on average contrasted with 3,638 daily from Oct. 1 through Friday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Illinois hospitals had 3,092 patients with COVID-19 as of Thursday night. It contributed to a 38% surge in hospitalizations in October over those in September, with 2,129 patients a day in hospitals from Oct. 1 to 29, compared to 1,540 over that period in September.

Thirteen of the deaths were in Chicago and the collar counties, and 23 were downstate.

The news came as Gov. J.B. Pritzker imposed restrictions that include no indoor service at restaurants and bars in east-central Illinois (Region 6) effective Monday.

"This is an extraordinarily dangerous time, and as a result I am doing everything in my power to keep down the infection rate," Pritzker said.

The 21-county area, which includes Champaign County, is measuring a virus test positivity rate of 8.2% based on a seven-day average.

That means 10 out of 11 Illinois public health regions, including those that comprise Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry and Will counties, are facing restrictions as COVID-19 metrics leap higher.

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"We are on the precipice of the entire state entering into mitigation," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said in a statement.

And, with Halloween imminent, "we remind parents and children alike to make good decisions," Pritzker said at a briefing Friday. "Find new ways to celebrate the holiday while staying safe from the virus, and build surgical or medical masks into your costume." The IDPH offers tips for trick or treating safely at dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/halloween-guidance.

The increase in hospitalizations is being felt at Elmhurst Hospital. The hospital handled as many as 72 patients a day with COVID-19 in April that dropped to one person in early September. As of Friday, the hospital had 45 virus patients.

"It was chaos in the spring," said Bonnie Haddad, a registered nurse at Elmhurst Hospital. "Back in March I was working in critical care. Two patients died in a four-hour period. It was awful. I had to deal with the death of one patient, and then the death of the other."

At the same time, Haddad was caring for a third patient and "I had to be ready to take on more."

Now, "the numbers are definitely going up," Haddad said. However, "the first time no one knew what to expect. This time, we have a treatment, and we know what's coming. ... We know how quickly things can deteriorate and to be ready for it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

DuPage and Kane counties (Region 8) were hit with restrictions a week ago, but their virus test positivity rate was at 10.1% Friday compared to 9.5% on Oct. 23, IDPH records showed. Hospital admissions continue to increase, so regular hospital bed availability is at 23% although ICU beds are at 40% as of Tuesday, the most recent state data indicated. If available beds dip below 20%, it can trigger state intervention.

Will and Kankakee counties (Region 7) fell under similar action; their positivity rate was 10.2% Friday compared to 9.3% Oct. 23. Regular hospital bed availability was at 24%, and ICU beds measured 26%.

The state's actions are devastating the hospitality industry, Illinois Restaurant Association members said at a news conference Friday.

"What the governor is doing is killing us," said Jodi Fyfe, who owns Paramount Group catering and recently closed her Eden restaurant in Chicago because of the pandemic.

The group is filing legal motions of support for several lawsuits by restaurateurs around the state, including FoxFire Restaurant in Geneva, against Pritzker's suspension of indoor dining.

"Ninety-nine percent of restaurant operators are doing everything they've been asked to do," association President Sam Toia said. "We're sanitizing, we're distancing, we are testing." Toia said he's hoping to meet Pritzker face to face next week and work out a compromise.

"There's no doubt people who run business in this state, particularly restaurant and bar owners, are suffering," Pritzker said. But "if people who are sick go into a bar or restaurant, it's very easily spread in that environment.

"We have got to get the numbers down, and you know why -- so we can reopen the bars and restaurants, and so we can make sure our kids can go to school."

The state's virus test positivity rate is 7.3% based on a seven-day average, levels not seen since June. Also, 95,111 tests were reported in the last 24 hours.

The state's total caseload is 402,401, and deaths since the pandemic began have reached 9,711.

Other restrictions on Region 6 include limiting social events, gatherings and meetings to 25 people or less or 25% of room capacity, and closing outdoor service at bars and restaurants at 11 p.m.

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