State reports most new cases since late January, and Cook County warns of new limits
New cases of COVID-19 numbered 3,790 Wednesday, the highest since late January, with 28 more deaths from the respiratory disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Upswings in caseloads and COVID-19 hospitalizations mean the Cook County Department of Public Health is teetering on the brink of stricter limits on activities for suburban residents, authorities said at a briefing Wednesday.
"If the trend continues in the wrong direction, we will not hesitate to tighten restrictions," said Dr. Rachel Rubin. Actions could include reducing capacity in restaurants and shops, among other things.
Cook County health officials pinpointed seven municipalities with more than a 200% increase in cases over two weeks: Glencoe, Norridge, Riverside, Robbins, Harvey, Lynwood and Berkeley.
"It's all over. We can't say it's one particular area carrying the burden of these positive cases versus others," Rubin said.
She also noted a spike in testing and positive results involving those younger than 20, plus people in their 20s and 30s. That increase, however, is influenced by more testing among students returning to classes and the fact that a significant number of seniors have been vaccinated and aren't getting tested, Rubin said.
On Tuesday, 139,724 more Illinoisans received COVID-19 shots. The seven-day average is now 107,302.
The federal government has delivered 8,423,845 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 6,552,982 shots have been administered.
So far, 2,494,651 people -- nearly 20% of Illinois' population -- have been fully vaccinated. Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses several weeks apart.
Illinois hospitals were treating 1,710 COVID-19 patients Tuesday night, another spike when compared with the seven-day average of 1,530.
The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 4.1% based on a seven-day average, reflecting an upward trend. The positivity rate for cases, which means the total positive tests divided by all tests over seven days, last hit the 4% range on Jan. 30.
The warning signs come amid worries of a third pandemic surge in Illinois even as the race to get vaccine shots into arms accelerates.
"Unfortunately ... the number of hospitalizations is increasing, the number of people going into ICU beds is increasing, and that's of great concern," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at an event in Rockford. "We want to make sure before we reopen any further in the state we get that under control.
"As we get more people vaccinated, I think those case numbers, those hospitalizations, those ICU bed numbers will come down, and of course the number of deaths."
About 54% of those 65 and older are fully vaccinated compared to 16.8% of those ages 16 to 64, state health officials report.
The state is currently under Phase 4 of reopening, allowing indoor dining and greater capacities at public spaces.
Will County Health Department officials on Wednesday cautioned against holding large social events indoors.
Health department contact tracers reported several large wedding parties from March 10 to 13 attended by about 120 people with limited masking and social distancing that resulted in more than 20 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases.
State health data also indicated cases of more infectious COVID-19 mutations have more than doubled in two week.
On March 25, there were 227 COVID-19 variant infections compared to 600 on Tuesday. The most predominant strain is one originating in the United Kingdom.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,265,457, and 21,423 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 80,628 virus tests in the last 24 hours.