CHICAGO — The coronavirus pandemic could be a thing of the past by this time in 2021, the city’s top doctor said Thursday.
This has been a week of renewed hope and optimism for many, as Tuesday saw the first COVID-19 vaccinations being administered in Chicago. Those vaccines mark the beginning of the end of this pandemic, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a livestream Thursday.
“Hope’s on the horizon. We are going to have a much different 2021,” Arwady said. “I think this will all be in the rearview mirror by the time we get to this point next year.
“And the more we can do in Chicago to keep our numbers down, to get vaccine confidence upis what is going to get us past this. We can do this.”
Still, it will be months before the vaccine is widely available — meaning people will still be at risk and will have to take precautions, like staying socially distant and wearing a mask, for much of 2021, officials have said.
And the pandemic remains a serious issue. Just in the past 24 hours, another 181 people who died from COVID-19 were reported in Illinois.
The most recent victims include 67 people from Cook County, including a man in his 20s and three men in their 40s.
That’s on top of 698 COVID-19 deaths reported since Friday. The toll adds on to recent heavy losses: Last week saw a record-breaking 1,079 Illinoisans reported dead from COVID-19. The week before saw 953 victims, making it the second-deadliest of the pandemic for Illinois.
At least 14,835 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 1,150 deaths are probably related, according to the state.
The state also reported 8,828 cases in the past day. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 879,428.
Chicago and the rest of Illinois are still seeing too many new cases and too high of positivity rates, officials have said, but there has been some leveling-off in recent days.
People should keep wearing a mask, staying socially distant and washing their hands frequently, experts have said. People also should celebrate their holidays virtually and not see people outside their household, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has said.
“I definitely look forward to the day when the vaccine is widely available to every single person in the state,” Ezike said Monday. “Until that time, we still need to continue with our masking, avoiding crowds, watching our distance and washing hands. Let’s work to protect and not infect those that we love and those around us.”
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Every region in Illinois remains under Tier 3 restrictions. The rules close museums, casinos and theaters; cut capacity at stores; stop indoor sports and put stricter rules in place at gyms and salons, among other things.
In Chicago, people are being asked to stay home as much as possible, leaving only for essential things like grocery shopping; to work from home if possible; to stop gathering with anyone outside their household; and to stop traveling.
The surge in new cases in Chicago — and across Illinois — can only partially be explained by increased testing; in reality, there are more cases because coronavirus is spreading so much, officials have said. There’s evidence of that in the way positivity rates and COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations rose rapidly and have stayed high.
Illinois’ seven-day positivity fell to 8.4 percent Thursday with 92,015 tests reported. It was at 8.5 percent Wednesday. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.
Illinois’ seven-day test positivity, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, fell to 10 percent. It was at 10.3 percent Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, 4,751 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 1,056 people in the ICU and 575 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, 26 deaths and 1,829 confirmed cases were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 3,858 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 190,188 confirmed cases, according to state data.
The city is seeing an average of 19 deaths per day, down from an average of 22 deaths per day the week prior.
An average of 1,534 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 13 percent decrease from the previous week.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 12 percent, down from 13.1 percent the week before.
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