COVID-19 infections in children, teens more than double in last month
COVID-19 infections in children and teens more than doubled in a month, state data showed Friday, as new cases of the virus reached 13,012 with 126 more deaths.
The state's virus test positivity rate sits at 11.5% based on a seven-day average, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported -- the lowest it's been since Nov. 9.
Friday ushered in stricter rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those 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.
"The core philosophy here is -- if we all stay home as much as possible and avoid trips outside the house that we don't need to take -- we can fight this recent surge and turn things around for the health care workers and hospital systems who face an increasingly dangerous situation," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a briefing. "And, we can potentially pull back on these mitigations for everyone before the December holidays."
Illinois hospitals had 6,111 patients Thursday night, the highest tally since the pandemic began. One month ago, on Oct. 19, there were 2,261 virus hospitalizations.
In Will and Kankakee counties (Region 7), available hospital beds have dipped below recommended state levels of 20%. Currently, the number of available ICU beds is at 14% and regular beds is at 11%.
"It's a dire situation. Their positivity is still going up, which means that we're going to see more people infected," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said. She added the state and hospitals are collaborating with surrounding counties to coordinate transfers of patients if needed or directing ambulances to hospitals with capacity.
"We're not at the point where we're going to have anybody just flailing in the hallway because we can't get them a bed," she said.
The largest demographic with COVID-19 infections remains young people in their 20s, comprising 19% of the total, or 122,522 cases. That tally was 20%, or 60,973, in early October.
Infections in teenagers and children have increased by 130% since Oct. 5, when there were 38,795 virus cases equaling 12.8% of the total. As of Friday, COVID-19 cases in people 19 and younger came to 89,349 or 14%.
As Pfizer Inc. waits for federal approval of the emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, Illinois officials are trying to identify locations with freezers capable of storing it at minus 94 degrees, Ezike said. The government has purchased 20 freezers to be placed in Illinois' 11 public health regions "to make sure there is access at every part of the state."
The initial number of vaccines the state will receive is 400,000 doses and "we're working with that number to identify how to partition that out," she noted. Health care workers and first responders will receive the vaccine first and "we're feverishly working with excitement" on logistics, Ezike said.
A virus test positivity of 8% or higher triggers alarms and actions from the state if it continues. Region 7's average virus positivity rate measured 20.6% as of Tuesday, IDPH data showed Friday. Elsewhere, in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane Lake, and McHenry counties there was a slight downward trend.
DuPage and Kane (Region 8) hit a 14.6% positivity rate; Lake and McHenry (Region 9) reached 15.4%; and suburban Cook was at 15.5%.
Friday's new daily caseload is below Thursday's 14,612 tally but above the seven-day average of 11,777.
State labs processed 116,024 tests in the last 24 hours.
The latest data brings statewide infections to 634,395 and deaths from the respiratory disease to 11,304.
Other restrictions ordered by Pritzker temporarily shutter movie theaters and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people and funerals to 10 relatives.
"The numbers, candidly, at this particular moment, have been brutal," Classic Cinemas owner Chris Johnson said. "We're asking, begging, whatever it is for Congress to do something in the lame duck session" to enact a stimulus bill.
When the state lifted many stay-at-home rules in late June, Classic reopened screens in Elk Grove Village, Elmhurst, St. Charles and other locations with strict rules about masking and sanitizing.
Johnson had to shutter them two weeks later "because the business just wasn't there."
A lot of it had to do with not having new movies, Johnson said.
"One thing that's been the most challenging during the pandemic is the uncertainty," he said.
Changing government policies and the trajectory of the virus make staffing and stocking supplies of drinks, popcorn, chips and candy unmanageable, he said.
"There have been hundreds of cases we've had to get rid of. I can't believe how many nacho chips I've had," Johnson said, jokingly.