Illinois reports 14,612 new COVID-19 cases, 168 more deaths
The number of new COVID-19 cases surged to 14,612 Thursday, with a record 6,037 hospital patients and 168 more deaths from the respiratory disease as tighter restrictions go into effect to combat the outbreak.
Tougher restrictions beginning Friday include reducing capacity to 50% at grocery stores and 25% at other stores, suspending indoor group sports, closing casinos and gaming terminals, and banning events at banquet halls, party venues and clubs.
"Outside of things you have to leave home for like school, work and groceries, we're asking every one to stay at home as much as you can," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a briefing. "This is a temporary thing we can do to reduce spread of virus in our communities."
Hospitalizations are up by 165% compared to October, a nearly 3,000-patient increase daily. The numbered of hospitalized COVID-19 patients averaged 4,801 in November contrasted with 1,810 patients Oct. 1-18. Hospitalization numbers are based on the previous day's data.
Fatalities also followed a grim trend, measuring the highest since May 13, when 192 people died.
And caseloads surpassed the seven-day average of 12,120.
The state's rate of positive results on COVID-19 tests was 12% based on a seven-day average, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported. Pritzker said that statistic offers a glimmer of hope.
"In the most recent two or three days we have seen a hint of leveling in new cases and positivity rates in most of our regions. It's too early to tell if the stabilizing of the average is a meaningful trend or anomaly, but we're glad to have a pause in upward movement," he said.
This week, infections wildly diverged from 8,922 Wednesday to 14,612 Thursday but stayed in the 10,600-12,600 range Sunday through Tuesday. The seven-day virus positivity rate average fluctuated from a high of 12.8% Sunday to a low of 11.9% Wednesday.
Illinois labs processed 113,447 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours, the second-highest number since the pandemic began.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the state's health department, warned people who think a negative COVID-19 test before Thanksgiving means "it's OK to gather with friends and family, including elderly relatives."
"That only works if you haven't exposed yourself to anyone in the 14 days from when you got tested to when you meet up with your friends and family," she said. "A negative test does not get you a free pass to celebrate Thanksgiving in person."
Ezike noted that sacrifices like celebrating Thanksgiving with just your immediate family and not the entire clan, as the state and medical experts recommend, "is not forever. The more we can reduce the spread of the virus now, then when a safe and effective vaccine comes out -- and it looks like it might come soon -- the quicker we can get back to normal."
Total infections statewide stand at 621,383 with 11,178 fatalities.
Other restrictions starting Friday involve temporarily closing movie theaters, limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people, and limiting funerals to 10 relatives.
Before an online community forum Thursday evening, Edward Hospital Chief Physician Executive Sanjeeb Khatua said the Naperville institution is in the thick of the second virus surge and "our employees are tired."
Edward medical staff members are upset by seeing people ignoring mask rules not only in their communities but also occasionally in the hospital itself, Khatua noted.
"We've had issues with visitors not wearing their masks, which makes it really difficult. Think about our staff; it's demoralizing and frustrating."
When Khatua asks patients how they contracted COVID-19, he's found "it's really about letting your guard down, being out of your bubble at gatherings and indoor spaces without a mask."
Pritzker also asked Illinoisans to consider donating blood this month as supplies typically run low over the holidays and the pandemic amplifies the need.