Illinois' COVID-19 metrics 'moving in the right direction,' surgeon general says
The U.S. Surgeon General said Illinois' COVID-19 metrics are "moving in the right direction" as new COVID-19 infections numbered 6,239 Tuesday and case averages dropped compared to November and December highs.
"And we have the finish line in sight with these two vaccines" by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams said during a visit to the state Tuesday.
A total of 234,450 doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the two pharmaceutical companies are arriving this week for health care workers in the suburbs and elsewhere in Illinois. Chicago is getting a separate shipment.
The seven-day average for new cases is 6,755 -- 19% less than the daily average of 8,384 for December and 34% less than the 10,278 average in November -- two months that marked a surge in infections.
Patients in hospitals with the virus totaled 4,571 as of Monday night, compared to the week's average of 4,611.
With thousands still filling hospital wards, Adams cautioned that "we have to stay the course. We can't let fatigue cause us to make poor decisions this holiday season." He said COVID-19 patients will swamp ICUs, and "if you have a heart attack, there might not be room at the inn."
At a briefing with state and Chicago officials, Adams encouraged COVID-19 survivors to donate blood so plasma containing antibodies could be used in creating treatments for the virus.
And he acknowledged distrust in Black communities about the COVID-19 vaccine, caused partly by "horrific" situations like the government's 40-year Tuskegee Study of Black men with syphilis who were never offered penicillin to treat their symptoms.
"This is why people of color don't trust the government," said Adams, who is Black. "It comes from a real place, and we have to acknowledge that. But we also have to sit down with people and help them understand there are protections in place to make sure something like that never happens again."
Asked about strains of the virus causing concerns in Great Britain, Adams said U.S. Centers for Disease Control experts told him "there is no indication thus far that this new variant will be resistant to vaccines."
Also Tuesday, 116 more people died of the respiratory disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Total cases since the pandemic began stand at 911,308. A total of 15,414 people have died from COVID-19 statewide, and the daily average of fatalities in December is 144. More than 48% of those who died from the virus were age 80 and older.
The state's positivity rate for cases continues to decline and is now at 7.4% based on a seven-day average, the lowest it's been since 7.3% on Oct. 30. The rate is calculated by dividing the number of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed by the total tests processed.
The state's positivity rate for tests is also trending down at 9.3% based on a seven-day average. The test rate is calculated by dividing the number of positive tests by the total tests processed, including people taking multiple tests.
As cases have surged, the state has imposed a series of restrictions that have shut down indoor dining, closed movie theaters and limited capacity at shops. Despite the declining caseloads and positivity rates, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he would not consider lifting the measures until after the holidays.
More than 5,000 restaurants have closed in Illinois because of COVID-19, said Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association. A pandemic relief package Congress just passed will help, but the industry needs a separate federal stimulus and help from the state.
"We're not saying 100% capacity (inside). We cannot survive out here without any indoor dining," Toia said.
With January and February coming, "we need a pragmatic path forward for indoor dining," Toia said. Restaurants are highly regulated and "we know how to do this right," he said about masking and social distancing.
State COVID-19 testing sites will be closed Christmas and New Year's Day. Labs reported 84,764 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours.
The IDPH also reported 1,257 probable deaths from COVID-19.