Cook County issues 30-day stay-at-home advisory as new COVID-19 cases top 15,000
New COVID-19 cases spiked to a record 15,415 Friday as Cook County leaders advised suburban residents to stay at home when possible to reduce virus spread and as three suburban regions fell below desired levels for available hospital beds.
The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 27 additional deaths from the respiratory disease.
Statewide, "we ask Illinoisans to stay at home as much as possible because the situation we face now is increasingly dangerous for health care workers and hospital systems," Gov. J.B. Pritkzer said at a Friday briefing. "More Illinoisans are in the hospital battling COVID-19 than we saw at our highest average in spring. And increasingly, regions are at risk for potential ICU bed shortages and staffing shortages as our case rates continue to rise."
The Cook County Department of Public Health's stay-at-home advisory is effective Monday and set to last 30 days. The county asked employers to ensure as many employees as possible can work from home and recommended residents avoid going out as much as possible with exceptions for work, school, buying groceries or getting a COVID-19 test or flu shot.
"We have to be on guard against complacency," IDPH Executive Director Ngozi Ezike said. "This virus spreads quickly and it's gaining on us. These are all-time highs."
Friday's new caseload is a 121% leap from the Nov. 1 tally of 6,980 statewide, but it also reflects a new IDPH policy that began Nov. 6 of consolidating confirmed and probable cases. Probable cases include positive antigen tests that use proteins to rapidly diagnose COVID-19.
As the virus surges, there's been confusion about how many of the recent infections are probable cases; IDPH officials said those constituted 4.3% of Friday's new cases, or 667.
"The 15,000 is not being driven by the antigen test; we just have a lot of disease," Ezike said.
Patients in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 totaled 5,362 as of Thursday night, surpassing peak hospitalizations when COVID-19 first spiraled in spring, though cases are more dispersed around the state.
Average daily patient counts grew to an average of 4,767 hospitalizations in the last seven days, compared to 3,604 from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, an increase of 32% or 1,162 people.
"We are seeing capacity decrease everywhere," Ezike said. "Everyone's trying to make plans on how to brace for that and be able to have care for not just the COVID-19 patients but if someone has a heart attack tomorrow -- that person's also going to want a bed in a hospital."
Despite the metro region living under state restrictions like no indoor dining at restaurants, several counties hit alarm bells regarding hospital capacity.
The state wants hospitals to have at least 20% regular and ICU bed capacity available. In Cook, the county has 19% of medical/surgical and 25% of ICU beds available, according to IDPH data Friday.
Will and Kankakee counties (Region 7) are under 20% in both, with 16% of ICU and 12% of medical/surgical beds open. In DuPage and Kane counties (Region 8), 33% of ICU and 19% of regular beds are available.
"This is a rough time and every effort must be made to turn this around," Will County Public Health Department spokesman Steve Brandy said. He noted Will on its own has 28% ICU capacity, "which is still dangerously low."
The state's virus test positivity rate measured 13.2% based on a seven-day average, compared to 9.6% a week ago.
Cook County health department officials also told households to limit gatherings to their immediate families and not invite relatives or friends for Thanksgiving events.
"We know limiting gatherings with friends and family can be hard, but we also know that virtual celebrations will save lives," health department Senior Medical Officer Rachel Rubin said.
The move follows a similar advisory issued Thursday by Chicago officials.
Also on Friday, Pritzker extended an eviction ban for 30 days but said renters will be required to submit a declaration form available at ihda.org to their landlord certifying that they are unable to pay because of the pandemic.
And Secretary of State Jesse White's office said Friday that driver's license facilities statewide will be closed starting Tuesday through Dec. 6 due to the risks of the pandemic.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois stands at 551,957 with 10,504 deaths.
State labs processed 106,540 tests in the last 24 hours.