Infection rate up slightly as state surpasses 138,000 cases
Test results for COVID-19 showed the positivity rate ticked up slightly, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday, but hospitalizations for the respiratory disease dipped as the state stands poised to ease more virus-related restrictions on Friday.
Daily cases of the respiratory disease rose by 715 with 64 more deaths in the last 24 hours, the state health department reported.
But the number of people hospitalized with the disease dipped from 1,648 announced Tuesday to 1,614 on Wednesday.
The COVID-19 testing positivity rate increased to a seven-day average of 3% Wednesday after sitting at 2% Sunday through Tuesday. The statistic measures how many of the tests performed have positive results.
Meanwhile, all public testing sites in Illinois will remain open despite funding cuts by the federal government, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
While health experts agree testing is essential to combat the spread of COVID-19, President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the effort. A state health official said the agency asked the federal government to extend funding for two testing sites in Harwood Heights and Peoria, "but unfortunately, the request was denied."
However, the state "will ensure operations at the two federal testing sites continue," Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.
The statewide tally of Illinoisans dying from COVID-19 is 6,770, and total cases number 138,540 since the pandemic began.
The state is still on track to enter Phase 4, or Revitalization, of a five-phase, four-region reopening plan on Friday. Phase 4 relaxes stay-at-home rules by allowing gatherings of up to 50 people to occur and more businesses to open.
To transition, Illinois must hit health metrics including stable or declining hospitalizations, staying under a 20% positivity rate for the virus, and having available hospital beds.
State officials "don't look at positivity rates from day to day," Abudayyeh said. "We look at them over a span of a week on a rolling average basis because there are factors that change day to day and the experts don't look at day-to-day data. They look at trends."
Testing for COVID-19 has surpassed 1.4 million. The daily positivity rate has swung from 2.3% to 2.9% in the last week.
Edward Hospital Infection Control & Prevention Medical Director Jonathan Pinsky noted that it has been more than three weeks since May 29, when the state entered Phase 3. That stage reopened many businesses shut during the stay-at-home order and allowed people to gather in groups of 10 or fewer.
Some COVID-19 patients he's currently seeing include ones who had attended group gatherings.
Meanwhile, "the hospitalization number is a good metric of how much infection there is," Pinsky added. Research shows it takes an average of seven days from the onset of symptoms to going to hospital.
Reports indicate the White House will end funding for 13 public testing sites in Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.
At a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, the president said extensive testing means "you're going to find more people, you're going to find more (COVID-19) cases. So I said to my people, 'slow the testing down, please.'"
This week he told reporters, "testing is a double-edged sword. In one way, it tells you (that) you have cases. In another way, you find out where the cases are and you do a good job. We are doing a great job."
Abudayyeh said, "President Donald Trump admitted he wants to slow down coronavirus testing, and now the federal government will no longer support two testing sites in Illinois. Illinois has risen from 30th to fifth in the nation for the average number of tests completed over the last week because the governor knows in order to control the spread of the virus (that) families, workers and businesses need to know testing is widely available."
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.