COVID-19 hospitalizations increase to highest level since July 1
More people were hospitalized for COVID-19 infections by the end of the day Tuesday than the state had seen since July 1.
Illinois Department of Public Health officials said 1,552 patients were hospitalized statewide, with 368 of them in intensive care units.
Statewide, hospitals have seen 205 more patients admitted over the past four days, including an additional 56 patients admitted Tuesday, according to IDPH figures.
"The number of cases statewide is generally trending upward, and positivity rates have increased throughout the state," Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a news conference Wednesday.
"It is true they're not as high as they were in April or May, but they are increasing. And if we don't take further steps to reduce the spread of the virus, our numbers will continue to go up and we will be right back where we were just a few months ago."
IDPH reported 30 additional COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, along with 1,759 more people diagnosed with the respiratory disease.
That brings the state's death toll to 7,573 since the outbreak began, with 186,741 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The 30 dead were reported from 15 counties. Eight of the dead were from Cook County, two from DuPage County, three each from Kane and Lake counties and one from Will County. The other 13 dead were from 10 downstate counties.
The state's seven-day average positivity rate remains at 3.9% while also averaging 1,621 new cases a day over the past week.
The state is reporting 95% of those who tested positive have recovered.
But in the past month, counties outside the six-county Chicago metropolitan region have collectively seen the average number of new cases per day increase by 179%. Wednesday, 38% of the new cases came from downstate counties, according to IDPH figures.
Ezike cited a number of large gatherings downstate, including an event in East Peoria that drew hundreds of people, few with masks, to a riverfront park.
"You're tired of hearing, and I'm tired of saying it," she said. "But this virus is not tired. In fact, it's trying to gain momentum. It's cunning and it's elusive."
While Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools officials officially announced the school year for Chicago students would begin with remote learning, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said there are no plans to require districts throughout the state to follow suit, but he left the door open for that if infection and hospitalization numbers increase significantly.
"I don't want it to happen, but it could happen," he said.
Pritzker on Wednesday also again reiterated warnings of a nationwide unemployment scam that is targeting people who didn't apply for unemployment benefits. If anyone received notifications or a debit card in the mail, Pritzker warned, their personal information may have been compromised. He urged anyone who received unsolicited unemployment benefits to visit the Illinois Department of Employment Security website, ides.illinois.gov, and click on the tab to report fraud and follow the directions.