January third-deadliest month as Illinois surpasses 19,000 COVID-19 deaths
Illinois surpassed 19,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths Thursday, as 103 more deaths were reported by state health officials, assuring January will be the state's third-deadliest month of the pandemic despite a significant drop in new cases throughout the month.
With 2,577 COVID-19 deaths recorded so far this month, only December and May were deadlier for Illinois, with 4,212 and 3,034 deaths, respectively, according to Illinois Department of Public Health records. Thursday's death toll pushed January past November, when 2,521 Illinois residents died of COVID-19.
Of January's deaths, 993 -- 38.5% -- were residents of suburban Cook County, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, IDPH figures show.
The state's confirmed death toll since the outset of the pandemic is now at 19,067. Another 2,007 deaths are considered "probable" COVID-19 deaths, according to state records submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State health officials worry another surge in cases and deaths could happen as restrictions on indoor dining are loosened and youth sports are allowed to resume. They also worry that residents won't be as cautious as they should be since vaccinations have begun in the state.
The coronavirus numbers for Illinois are still sobering ... pic.twitter.com/zD6NihMxr2— Daily Herald (@dailyherald) January 29, 2021
Illinois is averaging 79 COVID-19 deaths and 4,019 new cases a day over the past week. At the beginning of the month, the state was averaging 121 deaths from COVID-19 and 5,677 new cases a day.
"I hope that we will all use the experience that we have garnered as we go forward so that we don't, in fact, see another surge," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike last week. "We need to continue with the masking and the safe choices that will allow these numbers to continue in the downward, right direction."
The state's seven-day average case positivity rate stands at 4.3%. Case positivity allows health officials to track infection levels within a specific population. A seven-day average is used to smooth out in any anomalies in the daily reporting of new cases and test results.
IDPH officials also reported 2,802 patients are hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 infections, the fewest since late October. Of those hospitalized, 567 are in intensive care.
The state also reported 55,865 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered Wednesday, another single-day high since the rollout began. That brings the state's total number of reported vaccine inoculations to 829,488. Vaccine providers throughout the state are averaging 33,728 inoculations a day.
On Thursday, IDPH records showed 40,000 fewer doses earmarked for national pharmacy chains to inoculate workers and residents at long-term care facilities had been received than on Wednesday. State officials said that's because an error in the federal government's "Tiberius system," which tracks distribution, had been corrected. Through Wednesday, those chains had used 26.5% of the 496,100 vaccine doses they'd received.
Questions remain about why so few of the state's doses have been used. The state ranks near the bottom in per capita inoculations, according to CDC figures. Statewide, all vaccine providers have used 46.4% of the doses available, according to IDPH records. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said many of the state's allotted doses have to be held back for the second dose of the two-dose regimen.
Illinois Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican, said Pritzker should work with the legislature on ways to increase vaccinations.
"Our offices are overwhelmed with calls from constituents who are frustrated, crying -- even begging for answers on the vaccine distribution," McConchie said. "We need the administration to incorporate the legislature so we can all do the jobs we were elected to do and help the people of Illinois when they need it the most."
Pritzker has complained that vaccine shortages from the federal government and a scattershot approach to distribution have hindered the rollout.
State and local health officials are urging eligible residents to register for vaccinations at multiple locations, through their county health departments, their physician's medical network and national pharmacy chains.
Retail giant Meijer is now accepting online registrations for vaccinations at some of its in-store pharmacies. Visit clinic.meijer.com to register to be notified when a dose is available.