New COVID-19 infections hit 4,554 as officials cite 'blatant disregard' for mask, distancing rules

  • As cases of COVID-19 grow in Illinois, the testing facility at Arlington Park was busy Friday with lines stretching east on Euclid Road, causing traffic backups.

    As cases of COVID-19 grow in Illinois, the testing facility at Arlington Park was busy Friday with lines stretching east on Euclid Road, causing traffic backups. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/16/2020 6:20 PM

New cases of COVID-19 totaled 4,554 Friday, a new high after Thursday's record 4,015, and deaths from the respiratory disease came to 38, triggering a warning about Illinoisans "blatantly disregarding" face mask and social distancing rules.

Illinois' virus test positivity rate is 5.1% based on a seven-day rolling average, reflecting rising trends in October.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I am deeply concerned," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a briefing. "We are in a new wave here of COVID-19 -- rising cases, rising positivity all across the nation, not just Illinois."

Thirty-four counties, including DeKalb, Kane, McHenry and Will, received an Illinois Department of Public Health warning for metrics indicating risk of an outbreak. Kane County's test positivity rate has climbed past 8% on average the last few days, which could mean restrictions that could also affect DuPage County if the spike continues.

"Unless we change our behavior as a community, we can expect to see more illness, death and economic hardship," Kane County Health Department Director Barbara Jeffers said in a statement, adding residents in their 20s constitute more than 40% of infections.

"Younger people exposing their older, more vulnerable family members is a serious concern," she warned.

Other risk factors for Kane County include 114 cases per 100,000 people -- well above the recommended level of 50 -- and an increase in deaths, according to recent data through Oct. 10.

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In McHenry County, the average positivity rate was 8.6%, with 102 virus cases per 100,000 people as of Oct. 10. Will County recorded 133 cases per 100,000 people and an increase in deaths.

Gatherings at bars and clubs, college parties and sports, weddings, funerals and family get-togethers were among the reasons for the caution, IDPH said.

"Public health officials are observing businesses blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings," IDPH experts said in a statement.

The state is divided into 11 health care regions, allowing officials to target areas at risk of a virus surge. Region 8, comprising Kane and DuPage counties, had an average COVID-19 test positivity rate of 7.4% as of Tuesday, the IDPH reported. Elsewhere, suburban Cook had a positivity rate of 6.3%, Lake and McHenry were at 6.6%, and Will and Kankakee counties were at 6.8%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

DuPage County Health Department experts warned of "COVID-19 fatigue" and urged residents to be vigilant about wearing masks Friday, noting the average number of cases per day had increased from 112 to 169 from Oct. 6 to 13.

The number of patients in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 reached 2,016 as of Thursday night -- the most since June 12 when hospitalizations hit 2,117. The seven-day average for hospitalizations is 1,874. COVID-19 patients in ICU beds reached 410, the highest since June 22, and 151 patients were on ventilators as of Thursday.

The state has processed 6.6 million tests so far, and 87,759 in the last 24 hours.

The number of COVID-19 cases statewide is at 336,174, and the number of people dying since the pandemic began is 9,165.

The average number of new cases per day in the last seven days is 3,236 compared to 2,267 from Oct. 3 to 9.

Illinois has had "one of the lowest positivity rates in the Midwest and lowest among our neighbors," Pritzker said, adding one challenge is the state's proximity to states with high infection rates. Indiana has a test positivity rate of 16.5%, Iowa is at 20% and Wisconsin is at 22.9%, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The governor made his remarks at Elgin's Centro de Información where he announced $30 million in federal grants to support Illinois agencies that serve immigrants with providing COVID-19 care, housing, job training and health education.

The state's largest daily count of COVID-19 infections was 5,368 on Sept. 4, but that included cases that were backlogged because of data processing problems since corrected.

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