Illinois reports highest 7-day COVID-19 average, 2,643 cases a day, as restaurateurs brace
New cases of COVID-19 totaled 2,742 Monday and 13 more people died of the respiratory disease, officials said, as some key health metrics ticked in the wrong direction with case numbers escalating.
The seven-day average of new cases was 2,643 -- the highest weekly tally since the pandemic started, although that also reflects a groundswell in testing compared to the spring.
In May, when virus infections were spiraling, the average daily caseload was 2,156.5, and from May 1 to May 7, it was 2,565.
The virus test positivity rate is 4.3% based on a seven-day average, in contrast with 3.4% a week ago on Oct. 5.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois was 1,764 as of Sunday night. The seven-day average for hospitalizations is 1,752 -- a 9.8% increase from the average a week ago of 1,595, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4.
Meanwhile, suburban restaurant and bar owners are bracing themselves as cold days start outnumbering warm ones. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, Illinois requires tables indoors to be spaced 6 feet apart along with other rules, which has reduced capacity and resulted in myriad businesses offering al fresco dining.
This week, heaters are keeping patrons warm at the beer garden outside Cortland's Garage Tavern & Grill in Arlington Heights.
Owner Brian Roginski plans to erect a tent soon at his patio and install a hospital-grade HVAC filter inside.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed and hopefully everything will work out and people will still keep coming in and enjoying it," he said. If the weather stays mild, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may bring a bounce in outdoor business, but "we know it's going to be impossible with January and February. It's just going to be cold," he said. "That's how it is in Illinois."
George Kastanis, owner of The Original Granny's restaurant in Wheeling, has 10 tables seating 30 people outside.
The additional customers will be missed once temperatures dive, Kastanis said.
"We're lucky to have this (mild) weather," Kastanis said. "People still like to sit outside."
Fortunately, a boom in carryout orders is helping compensate for reduced seating, he said. Inside, "we were able to put glass between the booths and occupy half the restaurant. People love it. For now, we're surviving. We can pay the bills on time."
Other businesses, however, are on the brink and winter could push them over, Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said.
"It's been devastating for the restaurant industry -- the last seven months," Toia said. "We're down anywhere from 50% to 80% sales. Not good. We thought there would be another stimulus bill passed."
Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress have stalled on an aid package. The National Restaurant Assocation warns that up to 20% of eateries could go under, which would mean 5,000 out of more than 25,000 restaurants in Illinois close their doors, affecting about 120,000 workers, Toia said.
Illinois labs processed 47,579 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours for a total of 6.36 million, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
The state's recovery rate is 96%, which refers to the percentage of people who tested positive for the virus and have not died in 42 days since infection.
The state's COVID-19 caseload has grown to 321,892 since the pandemic started with 8,997 deaths, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Among the Illinoisans succumbing to the disease are a Will County man in his 70s, and four Cook County residents -- a woman in her 50s, two men in their 60s and a woman in her 70s.