COVID-19 infection rate dips below 10% for first time since Nov. 6

  • State health officials said testing figures have dipped at most of the state's COVID-19 testing sites.

    State health officials said testing figures have dipped at most of the state's COVID-19 testing sites. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, Nov. 17

 
 
Updated 12/8/2020 7:01 PM

Illinois' COVID-19 seven-day average infection rate dipped below 10% Tuesday for the first time in more than a month as state health officials tried to allay fears about getting vaccinated.

"Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. "Our team is poring over the analysis released by the FDA on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this morning. Additional sets of eyes on evidence can only be helpful."

 

The push by state officials is necessary to ensure the vaccine's success, they said. A limited supply of the first batch of one type of vaccine could be ready to deploy within the next two weeks, they said.

FDA approval of the vaccine could come this week, with vaccine deliveries beginning shortly after that. Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are prioritized.

Meanwhile, Illinois Department of Public Health officials reported Tuesday another 145 Illinois residents have died from COVID-19 and another 7,910 new cases of the disease were diagnosed.

That brings the state's death toll from the virus to 13,487, with 804,174 residents infected since the outbreak began.

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The state's seven-day average infection rate now stands at 9.9%, the first time it has dipped below 10% since Nov. 6.

Nov. 6 was also the first day the state started including the results of "rapid-result" antigen tests in the state's daily case counts, which caused a noticeable spike in the infection rate.

The seven-day average infection rate, also referred to as a case positivity rate, is the percentage of new cases each day among the number of test results. It is a metric health officials use to determine when to enact or lift mitigation restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

In the suburbs Tuesday, many counties saw the seven-day average infection rates shrink or stay the same. Will County reported an infection rate below 14% for the first time since Nov. 5. The only county that didn't see a decrease in the infection rate was Kane County, which climbed from Monday's rate of 13.9% to 14.3% Tuesday.

IDPH also reported 5,199 people were hospitalized statewide Monday for treatment of COVID-19, up slightly for the second consecutive day.

Hospitalizations remain a concern, health officials said, particularly in areas with higher minority populations, which have been hit harder by the virus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pritzker and IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said they were hoping to assuage concerns about the vaccine, particularly among minority communities.

"There's a lot of work to be done there, and there are very valid reasons why that skepticism exists," Ezike said, mentioning some notoriously unethical medical trials on Black Americans in the past. "Public health has not always done right by communities of color."

While it will be months before vaccines are widely available to the public, state health officials need significant buy-in from the vast majority of residents for the vaccine to be effective. Ezike said IDPH is planning outreach activities with community organizations throughout the state to help dispel any rumors and myths about the vaccine.

During Tuesday's media briefing, Pritzker invited 68-year-old Bonnie Blue of Chicago to talk about her experience after volunteering for the Moderna vaccine trial several months ago.

Blue said she is a lifetime asthma sufferer and health care worker who felt it was her duty to participate in the trial. She doesn't believe she got a placebo because she experienced similar side effects reported by others who received the vaccine -- headaches and fatigue.

"For me to take part in this trial was a huge risk, a risk my family and friends were not happy I was taking," she said. "But I'm here. I am fine."

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