1,257 new COVID-19 cases in Illinois, but with record test count, positivity rate dips

  • Health worker Kimberly Morgan of Chicago hands a test kit through a window to a test subject at a DuPage County COVID-19 testing site in Wheaton. Illinois reached 43,006 daily COVID-19 tests Thursday, a milestone.

      Health worker Kimberly Morgan of Chicago hands a test kit through a window to a test subject at a DuPage County COVID-19 testing site in Wheaton. Illinois reached 43,006 daily COVID-19 tests Thursday, a milestone. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/16/2020 8:09 PM

Cases of COVID-19 climbed by 1,257 Thursday in Illinois, and 25 more people died from the respiratory disease, but the latest daily case count above 1,000 comes as the state conducted a record 43,006 tests in 24 hours.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported a seven-day positivity test rate Thursday of 3.1%, and the daily rate dipped to 2.9%. The positivity rate has hovered around 3% for the past week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At a news conference Thursday in Rockford, Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged he's concerned the state could soon take a step backward in its pandemic fight, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

"Now that we have a massive uptick in cases all across the country, my confidence level is, you know, challenged," Pritzker said. "And then I look at the state of Illinois, and although we've had a mild uptick, it's one that I watch every day because anybody that knows anything about epidemics knows that when you have a mild uptick, that's an indicator you're heading in the wrong direction, and it may multiply. So we want to make sure we get a handle on that."

The total case count statewide now stands at 157,950, with 7,251 deaths.

Daily caseloads have surpassed 1,000 five times in the last eight days. The count hit 1,156 June 5, then declined and stayed below 1,000 until July 9.

The number of people in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms totaled 1,434 as of Wednesday night, higher than the seven-day average of 1,406 but a drop from Tuesday's tally of 1,454 patients.

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The ups and downs of positivity rates, hospitalizations and caseloads are receiving close scrutiny as school districts across the state grapple with the type of learning to offer when classes resume starting in August. Many are considering a combination of remote learning and in-class instruction.

"This fall is not going to be like any other fall from a school perspective that we've seen," Pritzker said Thursday.

He addressed questions about the potential of opening schools early and having classes outside, Capitol News Illinois reported.

"We've left it up to school districts to make these decisions because every one of them is different, their capability to do that is different," he said. "What we want to make sure is that there are options here. So we put a lot of money this summer and, frankly, even in the spring to building up our E-learning resources."

"It's not nearly as good as in-person. ... I think the experts have determined that," he said. "But having options is hugely important, particularly in this very uncertain world of a novel coronavirus."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Social distancing and face coverings in schools are not flexible, the governor has said.

On Wednesday, Pritzker redrew boundaries for monitoring COVID-19 conditions, expanding from four to 11 regions that include Chicago, suburban Cook, DuPage and Kane counties, Lake and McHenry counties, and Kendall and Will counties.

The state also revised how it could intervene when COVID-19 metrics in a region trend negative, offering a three-tiered "menu" of options for pulling back on activities.

If a local COVID-19 outbreak occurs, restaurants and bars -- considered higher-risk settings for spreading the virus -- would be automatically subject to restrictions, ranging from reducing indoor dining and bar service to allowing takeout service only, as one example.

Other entities that could be required to cut back if COVID-19 erupts in a region are offices, team sports and gyms, and retail.

Triggers for interventions include a sustained increase in the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests based on a seven-day rolling average (for seven out of 10 days) plus a seven-day hike in hospital admissions for related symptoms or a reduction in ICU and hospital bed capacity of 20% or higher.

Another cause would be three consecutive days with 8% or higher rates of positive results on COVID-19 tests.

So far, the suburbs are not in any risk categories.

Currently, there's too much in flux for a comfort level, said state Rep. Fred Crespo, chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

Come August "when school is ready to start -- will the positivity rate be any higher? The governor may have to make a different decision then," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said.

"If schools are to happen, there has to be masking and distancing," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday. "But to get there, we have to not have widespread community transmissions at rates that are not sustainable ... to safely do school."

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