69 more die of COVID-19 in Illinois, most since mid-June
State health officials Wednesday reported 69 more Illinois residents have died from COVID-19, the highest single-day total the state has seen since mid-June.
COVID-related deaths have been growing in recent weeks as the state has begun to experience an exponential growth of new cases of the respiratory disease that has caused four of the state's 11 health regions to have additional restrictions imposed.
"We should understand that's always the pattern," Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a media briefing Wednesday with the governor. "A certain number of cases will become hospitalizations, and a certain number of hospitalizations will go on to be deaths."
The state's death toll from the respiratory disease now stands at 9,345, and the state is now averaging 39 deaths a day over the past week. A month ago, the daily average of deaths for the week was 20, according to IDPH figures.
Additionally, IDPH officials reported 4,342 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed statewide. Since the outbreak began, 355,217 Illinois residents have contracted the disease.
The state's seven-day average infection rate now stands at 5.7%. A week ago, that rate was at 4.6%.
"We also continue to see concerning trends in hospital admissions across the board," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
The number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 increased to 2,338 patients by the end of Tuesday, according to IDPH figures. Of those hospitalized, 502 were being treated in intensive care units. The state hasn't had more than 500 COVID-19 patients in ICU beds since June 18.
Pritzker said vacancies of standard hospital beds and ICU beds in Will and Kankakee counties' Region 7 are diminishing rapidly and nearing levels that would require hospitals to stop allowing elective surgeries.
Region 7 and Region 8 -- which contains DuPage and Kane counties -- will have virus resurgence restrictions enforced beginning Friday. That includes elimination of indoor bar and restaurant service as well as limits on gathering sizes to 25 or fewer until the regional average test positivity rates fall below 6.5% for three consecutive days. However, positivity rates in those two regions continued to climb Wednesday.
In fact, Chicago, suburban Cook County and the region with Lake and McHenry counties all saw seven-day average positivity rates increase Wednesday. The positivity rate for the region with Lake and McHenry counties climbed for the seventh straight day to 7.7%.
By Friday, four of the state's eleven regions will be under virus resurgence mitigation protocols. In addition to the suburban regions, the northwestern Illinois region that contains towns like Rockford, Freeport and Galena has been under restriction since the end of September. The southernmost region will be under restriction beginning Thursday.
Pritzker warned that bars and restaurants that failed to abide by the state-imposed restrictions could face the loss of their liquor licenses.
"State police has been alerted to be on patrol in those regions," the governor said. "They have the ability to issue citations but will start with a warning. With information we get at the state level, we have the ability to take away their liquor licenses, which I have been hesitant to do. Now, we're going to be making sure we enforce that."
The governor and state health officials have been criticized for the restrictions imposed on businesses like bars and restaurants, but Pritzker said the decisions were made after a great amount of research and scrutiny. At Wednesday's briefing he held up 12 scientific studies on the transmission of COVID-19 at bars and restaurants.
"These show bars and restaurants are a major spreading location," he said. "It is disconcerting to me that people want to lie about it or disbelieve the facts. We're not making arbitrary decisions."
He also lamented the effect the restrictions will have on those businesses, many of which are family-owned. He suggested business owners who are affected by the restrictions apply for state grant funds. Illinois has roughly $220 million in Business Interruption Grants to help small businesses stay afloat. For information, go to illinois.gov/dceo.
IDPH officials also updated the agency's travel warning website Wednesday, which tracks the states that are averaging 15 new cases of COVID-19 each day for every 100,000 residents for the week that ended Tuesday. Only 19 states did not exceed that threshold last week, mostly on the west coast and the New England area.
Illinois averaged 31 new cases a day for every 100,000 residents. Only nine states had higher per capita rates than Illinois, according to the IDPH figures.