155 more COVID-19 deaths, 11,378 new cases
New COVID-19 cases totaled 11,378 Wednesday, the highest since Saturday, and 155 more people died from the respiratory disease, as Illinois moved to borrow $2 billion to offset plunging revenues and rising pandemic expenses.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus came to 6,133 as of Tuesday night, reflecting a week's worth of the highest hospitalizations since the pandemic began. However, patient numbers have notched down since Sunday's count of 6,171, according to Illinois Department of Public Health records.
Fatalities reached the second-highest mark since the state's first surge in May. The seven-day average of deaths is 117.7 compared to 118 people a day from May 10 to May 16.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state will borrow $2 billion as a short-term loan from the Federal Reserve to cover a shortfall incurred by the pandemic.
Lost sales tax revenues and increased expenses for items such as masks and ventilators have cost the state more than $5 billion, Pritzker said.
"Our collective intention is to repay this as early as possible," through stimulus funding if passed through Congress or by state revenues reviving when a vaccine is offered widely, he said, adding Wednesday was the deadline to apply. The state borrowed $1.2 billion earlier this year.
Asked about putting a graduated income tax referendum on the ballot again after the initiative failed in the Nov. 3 election, Pritzker said "that's not something I'm considering right now."
McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally announced Wednesday he would not enforce the state's indoor dining ban that has closed multiple bars and restaurants, drawing criticism from the governor.
"I would hope that officers of the court would follow the laws of the state and do the right thing," Pritzker said. "Other jurisdictions are following the law and prosecuting these fines." Businesses like bars that open are "spreading the virus willy-nilly at a time when we're undergoing a terrible second wave."
Illinois labs processed 114,233 tests in the last 24 hours, bringing the state's total past 10 million.
The state's virus positivity rate was 10.6% based on a seven-day average, moving up slightly from Tuesday's 10.4%.
Total infections in Illinois are at 685,467, with deaths at 11,832.
Pritzker noted "this is not the year to have everybody over at Grandma's house.
"I know this isn't what anybody wants to hear, but we also know this crisis may come to end in just a few months," he said, referring to several vaccines awaiting federal approval.
"Every day we throw caution to the wind, even if it's a holiday, is a day we backtrack on any progress that we've made for our health care workers, many of whom don't get to see their families on holidays."
That would include Elmhurst Hospital food service worker Angie Dillard, who will work a 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift delivering meals on Thanksgiving.
"Every patient room I go into, my goal is to make them feel good and give them the extra touch," Dillard said.
She recalled the COVID-19 surge of the spring, "when the emergency room was packed and nobody knew what was going on."
Her advice now is: "Wash your hands. Wear your mask."
"This is serious," she said. "I hope everybody abides by the rules. I'm praying a lot."