CHICAGO — Illinois hit a grim milestone Thursday: There have now been more than 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.
The state reported 8,757 confirmed cases in the past day. That means Illinois has had 1,008,045 confirmed cases — but leaders have said there have likely been many more people who have had COVID-19 but never got tested.
And 177 Illinoisans killed by coronavirus were reported in the past day, bringing the state’s death toll to at least 17,272. Another 1,669 deaths are probably related to the virus.
The most recent victims included 51 people from Cook County, including two men in their 40s and three men in their 50s.
But there are signs of hope, officials have said: Chicago and Illinois are now weeks into vaccinating people, and new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped in the city and statewide since a mid-November peak.
“As this disease continues to wreak havoc on our nation — with the United States setting another record for the most COVID-19 deaths in a day just [Wednesday] — it is critical that we take extra caution today and in the months ahead to reduce the spread, bring down hospitalization rates, and save lives,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement Thursday. “Now that vaccine distribution has begun, we can see the light at the end of this difficult time. Let’s do everything we can to ensure all of our neighbors are able to be there as we cross that finish line, healthy as well.”
Dr. Ngozi Ezke, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement the state’s goal is see its new cases decrease every day as the vaccine rolls out.
“Reporting more than 1 million COVID-19 cases in Illinois seemed like an unlikely number at the beginning of the pandemic, and we’ve now all seen how devastating this disease can be,” Ezike said. “I urge everyone to continue to wear their mask, avoid social gatherings and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”
Chicago has seen its positivity rate and daily new cases increase in recent days, but Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the city’s Department of Public Health, said that’s due to dips in testing around the holidays. Officials are still waiting to see if there will be a post-holiday bump, but Arwady said she hasn’t seen any major concerns in the data thus far.
Deaths remain high in Chicago, Arwady said, but there are other promising signs — like the drop in the city’s positivity rate and daily new cases since they hit a peak in November.
“We are making pretty good progress here, broadly, I think,” Arwady said during a Tuesday morning livestream. If that progress continues, “We may be able to start on some more reopening of businesses.”
Similarly, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday the state will peel back some of its coronavirus safety restrictions Jan. 15 if regions continue to see progress in their fight against COVID-19. State officials are also waiting to see if there will be a post-holiday bump.
Pritzker also announced the state will start vaccinating people 65 and older — rather than the federally recommended 75 and older — during the next phase.
More than 207,100 people have been vaccinated in Illinois, including more than 36,000 Chicagoans. The city has started vaccinating outpatient health care workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities.
About 42 percent of Chicago’s doses have been administered to people who don’t live in the city, Arwady said. That would mean the city has administered about 62,000 vaccine doses so far.
Officials have cautioned it will be months before vaccines are widely available to the public.
That means people are still at risk and will have to continue taking precautions for much of 2021, officials have said. People should keep wearing a mask, staying socially distant, washing their hands frequently, not gathering, not traveling and not having people into their home, experts have said.
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.
The city has a stay at home advisory that recommends everyone stay at home as much as possible, only leaving for essential activities such as work and to get groceries. Arwady has also said people should not travel to other states since COVID-19 is surging across the United States.
Illinois’ seven-day positivity rose slightly to 8.5 percent Thursday with 105,518 tests reported. It was at 8.4 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 9.8 percent Thursday. It was at 9.9 percent Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, 3,921 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 783 people in the ICU and 450 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, 28 deaths and 1,778 confirmed cases were reported in the past day. There have been at least 4,283 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 213,106 confirmed cases, according to state data.
The city is seeing an average of 14 deaths per day, down from an average of 19 deaths per day the week prior.
An average of 1,012 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 22 percent increase from the previous week. At the same time, testing has fallen by 7 percent.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 10.7 percent, up from 8.4 percent the week before.
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