Death rates from COVID-19 drop by 45% in 2021 as 16,581 new cases are reported Wednesday

  • So far, 7,655,874 people have been fully vaccinated, or 60.1% of Illinois' 12.7 million population.

    So far, 7,655,874 people have been fully vaccinated, or 60.1% of Illinois' 12.7 million population. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 12/22/2021 7:05 PM

Death rates from COVID-19 in Illinois dropped in 2021 by over 45% from 2020, a welcome trend that's due in large part to vaccines, experts said Wednesday.

The latest data comes on a day when 16,581 new COVID-19 cases were reported, pushing the state over 2 million total infections. It's the second highest daily count since the pandemic began.


The highest case numbers came on Nov. 5, 2020, with 17,608 new COVID-19 infections, amid a surge last fall.

Illinois recorded its first death from the respiratory disease on March 17, 2020, and ended the year with a grim tally of 16,490 people succumbing to the virus, or about 55 a day.

This year, however, has resulted in 10,867 deaths, an average of about 30 people a day as of Wednesday.

One major cause is that vaccines didn't emerge until late 2020, "so there were a lot more hospitalizations last year than this year," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, Edward Hospital's medical director of infection control and prevention.

Vaccination rates are nearly 85% for Illinoisans age 65 and older, which helps combat the higher COVID-19 mortality rate in that age group.

Pinsky noted the median age of COVID-19 patients is 20 years younger than in 2020. Currently at Edward, "we have the same number of 50-year-olds getting admitted and hospitalized, but we have far fewer people in their 70s. The overall number of hospitalizations are down, and I think those two things are why we're seeing fewer deaths."

Also Wednesday, the IDPH recorded 66 more deaths from the respiratory disease, bringing Illinois' total to 27,357 since the pandemic began.

Among those thousands was Vernon Hills' Robert Kanney, a retired electrical engineer who loved to play Santa at Christmas and was the family's "glue," daughter Anne Gulotta of Barrington said.

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Kanney, 91, died alone in a hospital of COVID-19 on March 29, 2020, and pandemic restrictions prevented the extended family from attending his burial or gathering at Christmas 2020.

This year, Gulotta is looking forward to reuniting with her siblings, although "that's when we will really feel it ... because we haven't had that chance. It gives us time to remember in a good way. He will still be part of our dinner gathering. We will still continue to carry his memory forward in a lot of the things we love."

Also Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 71 COVID-19 cases involving the highly contagious omicron variant, up from 17 on Monday. It's believed omicron now represents 73% of new infections across the U.S., experts said at a White House COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

Total cases statewide since the pandemic began stand at 2,002,360.

Illinois hospitals were treating 4,178 COVID-19 patients Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, 77,435 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 66,113.


A total of 2,838,285 booster shots have been administered.

The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 cases climbed to 6%, based on a seven-day average, the highest level since Jan. 17.

So far, 7,655,874 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or 60.1% of the state's 12.7 million population. That means two Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The federal government has delivered 21,153,605 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 18,775,064 shots have been administered.

Labs processed 199,406 virus tests in the last 24 hours.

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