Illinois COVID-19 death toll surpasses 8,500

  • Researchers at the University of Illinois and state health officials are working to make the university's saliva-based COVID-19 test more widely available throughout the state.

    Researchers at the University of Illinois and state health officials are working to make the university's saliva-based COVID-19 test more widely available throughout the state. Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois

 
 
Updated 9/23/2020 2:00 PM

More than 8,500 Illinois residents have now died from COVID-19, according to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The grim milestone comes a day after the nation surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths since the outbreak began.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In 2018 -- the year with the most recent available data -- only heart disease and cancer each killed more than 8,500 Illinoisans, according to IDPH records. That year, the flu killed 2,562 people, by comparison.

IDPH officials announced 22 more deaths Wednesday, pushing the state's death toll from the respiratory disease to 8,508.

Another 1,848 new cases of the disease have been diagnosed, bringing the number of Illinois residents infected by the virus to 279,114, IDPH officials also reported Wednesday.

The state's seven-day average infection rate remained at 3.5% for the fifth straight day, one of the longest stretches of stabilization during the pandemic for that figure, which represents the percentage of tests that have positive results.

"I'd like to see it at 2%, but we're not anywhere near that yet," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference Wednesday. "We've still got one region under a mitigation plan and another region heading in that direction."

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State officials are keeping an eye on the nine-county region in the northwest corner of the state that contains cities like Rockford, DeKalb, Galena and Freeport. The average infection rate for the region is at 7.5% as of Sunday. It has risen from 6% on Sept. 14.

The increase is fueled by Jo Daviess County, which is exceeding three risk categories: more than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, an average positivity rate for the week exceeding 8% and not enough testing being performed on residents in the area.

If the region exceeds an 8% average positivity rate, businesses will be put under greater operating restrictions and the size of gatherings will be reduced. Currently, the Metro East region near St. Louis is still under mitigation restrictions. Last week, the region that contains Will and Kankakee counties had those restrictions lifted after nearly three weeks.

Pritzker also blasted critics who complained about the state postponing the high school football season until at least spring while allowing other sports to be played this fall.

"Attacking my daughter for playing a sport that is allowed. People protested in front of a state employee's house over the last few days, scaring their children," Pritzker reported. "People need to understand that I'm focused on saving lives. The fact that people want to get personal is disturbing in the context that people are dying from this. Maybe they should step back and ask themselves, 'what is this all about?'"

It's unknown whose home was the site of protests. State officials did not immediately respond to questions about the governor's statement.

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