CHICAGO — As the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Illinois neared the 100,000 mark, Gov. JB Pritkzer said Tuesday he’s hopeful Illinois is over its peak in the crisis.
Illinois has seen a drop in hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and ventilator use. But new cases and deaths continue to mount. Another 146 people were reported to have died in the past day.
“I am optimistic that we are falling from a peak; however, I want to point out that if you look at all the metrics, they’re not all headed straight down,” Pritzker said. “Some of them have sort of flattened, they’re floating a little bit off their peak.”
Illinois had seen fewer than 100 deaths per day the last two days, but Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, delivered the grim news the number had again risen to more than 100 during the state’s daily coronavirus update.
There have now been 4,379 deaths tied to COVID-19 in the state.
And with 1,545 more confirmed cases in the past day, Illinois now stands at 98,030 cases, although officials presume far more people have contracted the infectious disease but have not been identified.
The vast majority people who were infected have recovered. There are now 4,002 in hospitals statewide. Of those, 993 are in intensive care units and 576 are on ventilators.
Each category improved from Monday, when 4,120 people were hospitalized, with 1,096 in ICUs and 636 on ventilators.
Pritzker’s optimism was tempered by concern of a new rise based on changes in people’s behavior in recent days.
“You can see the line gradually headed in the right direction. It feels good. It’s the right direction,” he said. “But be clear that when you’re looking at these metrics, a lot of them are affected by things that happened days ago, weeks ago. So as you watch them, what you’re really seeing is a reflection of something that happened — an infection, perhaps, that happened two weeks ago.
“That’s why it’s hard to project forward when you look at a hospitalization number. But it is the best number, in my opinion … for us to keep an eye on, in addition to, obviously, the positivity rate and capacity.”
Ezike urged people to continue to follow the state’s stay at home order, which some people around the state have pushed back against.
“We know that the deaths would have been significantly increased if we had not implemented a stay at home order,” Ezike said. “We could have been seeing tens of thousands of deaths. So as we move to reopen we must do it safely and deliberately. The decision to change our daily lives was not made lightly.”
Ezike said the continued high number of new confirmed cases is a function of the state’s improved testing program. The state reported 62,684 tests have been administered so far, with 18,443 since the last numbers were reported Monday.
Pritzker said the total amount of tests in the past week made Illinois the No. 1 state of the country’s most populous states for testing per capita over that stretch. Results from the most recent tests showed Illinois has a positivity rate of 8 percent of people tested in recent days, he said.
Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.
Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even people who show no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.
The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The most common symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chills and shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste and/or smell
People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.
If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, seek immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.
How To Protect Yourself
Here’s what you can do to prevent getting ill:
- The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, such as cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.
What To Do If You Think You’re Sick
Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.
Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.