Pritzker on COVID-19: ‘We are in a new wave here’

By Jerry Nowicki Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – More than 2,000 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in Illinois as of Thursday night, Oct. 16, a high not seen since June 12.

At that time, COVID-19 hospitalizations were quickly declining after peaking at 5,037 on April 28. Now, they are on the rise after falling as low as the 1,300s in July. Intensive care bed usage is up as well, with 410 COVID-19 patients occupying ICU beds and 151 on ventilators as of Oct. 16.

The state’s rolling seven-day average COVID-19 test positivity rate is also steeply increasing, hitting 5.1 percent for the week of Oct. 9-15, a high not seen since June 8, when that number was also on the way down. Now, it has increased for 12 straight days, jumping from 3.3 percent on Oct. 4.

“Let me be clear, we are in a new wave here,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference Friday, Oct. 16. “Anybody that hasn’t noticed this, turn on the television, we’re in a new wave of COVID-19, rising cases, rising positivity all across the nation, not just in the state of Illinois.”

Pritzker pointed out that Illinois border states Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa all have positivity rates of 15 percent or higher.

As of Oct. 16, 34 of the state’s 102 counties were at a warning level for COVID-19 spread, an increase of eight from a week ago, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Seventeen of those counties are on the state’s border.

Regional positivity rates were on the uptick as well.

IDPH reported a single-day record of new cases for the second straight day on Friday, Oct. 16 with 4,554 reported among 87,759 test results processed over the previous 24 hours. The high testing in part drove the high case count, but the one-day 5.2 percent positivity rate was an increase from averages in the past several weeks.

The 38 deaths reported by IDPH on Friday were in a person in their 40s, four in their 50s, four in their 60s, eight in their 70s and the rest 80 or older. That brought the total death toll to 9,165 among 336,174 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, while testing output surpassed 6.6 million.

The different phases of the state’s reopening plan and the related guidelines are explained in this Illinois Department of Public Health graphic.

In Region 1 of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan, which includes the northwest part of the state, the positivity rate increased to 10.6 percent according to the most recent data logged Tuesday, Oct. 13. Mitigations including the closure of bars and restaurants to indoor service cannot be lifted until the region is below 6.5 percent for three consecutive days.

Region 5, which includes southern Illinois and had a decreasing rate for two days, saw its rolling positivity rate increase to 7.8 percent. If it surpasses 8 percent for three straight days, it would be subject to greater state mitigations similar to those in Region 1. Those also include maximum capacity allotments of 25 people, down from 50 allowed elsewhere.

Excluding University of Illinois saliva tests, Region 6, which includes east-central Illinois, saw its positivity rate increase to 7.4 percent. Other regions ranged from 6 percent to 7.4 percent.

The counties at a warning level include Adams, Alexander, Boone, Cass, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, DeKalb, DeWitt, Jasper, Jefferson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kane, Lee, Macon, McDonough, McHenry Mercer, Monroe, Pike, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Stephenson, Union, Vermilion, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago.

IDPH issues a warning when a county crosses certain targets for two or more risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase. Those include things such as the daily number of new cases per 100,000 population, the county’s test positivity rate and new hospital admissions for COVID-19.

As the pandemic surges, unemployment in the state remains high as well, with the Illinois Department of Employment Security reporting Friday the state had a 10.2 percent unemployment rate in September.

That was higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.9 percent for the month, and nearly triple the 3.7 percent rate the state saw in September one year ago.

State’s 4,015 cases mark highest single-day total