State reports 35 more COVID-19 deaths, 1,941 new cases
Restrictions to prevent a surge of COVID-19, such as no indoor dining, could be eased within days in Will and Kankakee counties, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday at a briefing where he also warned about the risks of youth sports like football causing virus outbreaks.
As of Wednesday, 35 more people have died from COVID-19 and 1,941 new cases were diagnosed, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.
Will and Kankakee counties triggered state action after positive test results for the virus surpassed 8% in late August. As of Wednesday the daily positivity rate was 6.4%, below a 6.5% benchmark. The IDPH is monitoring results and if the region maintains or reduces its current level for three days, restrictions will be lifted.
"Masks, distancing, hand washing, enforcement -- it all works and Will and Kankakee counties so far are getting the job done and we're all rooting for them," Pritkzer said.
The total number of infections since the pandemic hit Illinois is 266,151, with 8,367 deaths statewide. The state's COVID-19 daily and seven-day average test positivity rates are both 3.7%.
This summer, numerous virus outbreaks occurred across Illinois and the world tied to a variety of youth sports leagues, Pritzker said. "Those continue today even among the lowest-risk youth sports."
Last week, nearly 100 youth sports players from Wayne County in Southern Illinois were quarantined and 37 tested positive for COVID-19, he noted. "I know we all want our kids to play sports, we all want our kids to attend in-person at school and we all wish that this pandemic were over. Unfortunately, until we're able to make that third wish come true -- our ability to make progress on the first two is somewhat limited."
Pritzker's remarks came the same day the Big Ten announced it will resume football in late October and amid scattered protests across the suburbs with parents and students lobbying for schools to resume in-person classes.
"I do know to listen to the experts and follow the latest data," Pritzker said. "Under no circumstances will I put children and their families at risk.
"To those that are claiming that putting your child in danger is about personal choice, I say, this is a pandemic. This deadly virus should remind us that there are some individual choices that have enormous life-changing impact on others. While parents might chose to send their children out onto the playing field, I can tell you that someone else -- who becomes ill because of that decision -- wouldn't call that your personal choice."
Rush University Medical Center infectious disease specialist Michael Linn noted that along with actual games, athletes working out, being in locker rooms and traveling together "provide a perfect storm of conditions for the disease to spread quickly."
Officials noted that although the NFL and colleges are conducting football games, those institutions have stringent protocols such as daily testing, the ability to isolate players, and massive facilities that are sanitized frequently.
"I don't know how many high school or grade school teams have the ability to provide that level of daily testing," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said.
As of Tuesday night, the number of COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals was 1,565, higher than the seven-day average of 1,534.