Illinois infection rate dips slightly for first time in 3 weeks

  • The COVID-19 testing location at Arlington International Racecourse is one of 11 state-run testing sites in the state that is free and open to the public, most operating seven days a week.

    The COVID-19 testing location at Arlington International Racecourse is one of 11 state-run testing sites in the state that is free and open to the public, most operating seven days a week. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, Oct. 16

 
 
Updated 10/23/2020 5:51 PM

The state's COVID-19 infection rate dipped slightly to 5.6% on Friday.

The decline, though small, was the first time the state's seven-day average infection rate has dropped since Oct. 4, when it was at just 3.3%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Since that time, three of the state's 11 health regions have been placed under tightened business and gathering restrictions to prevent spread of the disease. They joined a fourth region that has been under virus mitigation restrictions since late September.

DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties are among those faced with new restrictions, which began Friday.

Illinois has no plans to issue a statewide stay-at-home order similar to the one at the outset of the pandemic in March, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, but will deal with rising caseloads regionally.

The state's infection rate, which reflects positive results among tests given, was 5.7% on Thursday.

Despite the infection rate decline, Illinois health officials are not celebrating. Health officials reported 3,874 new cases Friday and 31 more deaths.

"This virus has caused a horrible situation, and though people may want to refute the number of cases, we are seeing the number of people with COVID-19 continue to increase," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "We are seeing the number of individuals in the hospital because of COVID-19 increase. We are seeing the number of lives lost continue to increase. And if you're tired of hearing it from me, please just ask one of your local physicians in your area."

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Ezike wiped away tears as she reported COVID-19 has now killed 9,418 Illinois residents, noting these people will not be with their families during the holidays this year.

"This is a difficult race when you can't actually see the end," she said. "And I'm sorry that's the message I have for you. "Nevertheless, I'm asking you to fight the fatigue. Fight the urge to give up social distancing. My message to you is stay strong."

Illinois has now had 364,033 residents infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak began.

Hospitals statewide reported 2,498 COVID-19 patients admitted for treatment at the end of the day Thursday. Of those patients, 511 were being treated in intensive care.

In DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties, the seven-day average test positivity rate remained above the state's 8% warning level for the sixth straight day. Bars and restaurants in those counties were ordered to cease indoor service. Gathering sizes were also limited to 25 people or less, or 25% of a facility's capacity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Will and Kankakee counties had been under the same mitigation restrictions for about four weeks beginning in late August.

Some restaurant and bar owners flouted the state mandate Friday and continued to serve indoors. Pritzker said he plans to beef up state police patrols for scofflaws this time around and he threatened to pull a businesses' liquor or video gambling licenses if owners don't comply.

"I would ask people to try to live by the rules that we've set," the governor said. "Wear your mask. The truth is if everybody will wear a mask, we can get our businesses back open much quicker."

The state's seven-county Metro East region adjacent to St. Louis also saw its seven-day average positivity rate climb above 8% Friday. That region was already under case mitigation restrictions from mid-August through mid-September. Two more days of increased positivity will put the region under those restrictions again.

The state's northwest region, which contains Rockford, Freeport, Galena and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and the state's 19-county southernmost region are also under mitigation restrictions.

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