CHICAGO — Illinois saw 3,526 cases of coronavirus reported in the past day — the highest that figure has been in almost two months.
For weeks, officials have warned new cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates are on the rise in Chicago and throughout Illinois. Daily new cases are up more than 75 percent in Chicago just since March 1. Officials have said they fear the city and state are in the beginning of a third wave of COVID-19.
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said there are no signs the city’s rise in cases and hospital visits will slow anytime soon.
Part of what’s fueling the surge is new variants, Arwady said during a Thursday livestream. She said more variants of COVID-19 are being found in Chicago — in particular, the more infectious and deadly B.1.1.7 variant found in the United Kingdom.
Current vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and death among those more common variants, but the vast majority of Chicagoans have not yet been fully vaccinated.
City contact tracers have also found people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 are reporting having been in contact with far more people recently, “because people are doing more high-risk gathering” in private and public settings, Arwady said.
“We are on a similar trajectory here” to Michigan, which is already seeing figures almost as bad as it did during its own second surge, Arwady said.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Illinois and Chicago’s positivity rate are also rising. Deaths remain low, with an average of four per day in Chicago; but officials have previously said those losses lag behind other figures.
“The question is going to be: With vaccine in the mix, if we can get a lot of the highest-risk folks vaccinated quickly, will we see the impact on these severe outcomes?” Arwady said.
Arwady said, as of now, she does not have a “major concern” about overwhelming the health care system and seeing a “huge number of deaths … but the increase in cases really has the potential to cause significant illness, hospitalizations and potentially some increase in death again.”
People should avoid gathering — including for holidays like Easter and Passover — especially if all people at the gathering are not fully vaccinated or if there will be people present who would be at increased risk from coronavirus, Arwady said.
Fewer than 15 percent of all Chicagoans are fully vaccinated, Arwady said. About 38 percent of Chicagoans 65 and older — who are most at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 — are fully vaccinated, while 57 percent have gotten at least one shot.
“That is still not where it needs to be. I’m anxious about that,” Arwady said.
At the same time, the city has maintained its loosened rules on businesses, allowing for more people to gather at restaurants and bars. Chicago also recently loosening restrictions on outdoor activities in a bid to get people to spend more time outside, where it’s harder for the virus to spread.
“We have over 400, almost 500 cases on average as of today,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday. “That’s a quantum leap from where we were even three weeks ago. That is concerning.”
Chicagoans won’t see “anything more significant in the reopening front” until the number of new cases stabilizes and falls, Lightfoot said.
Reopening is also stalled on a statewide level. Though 70 percent of Illinoisans 65 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the rising number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 means the state can’t move into its “Bridge Phase.”
“I’ve been to this movie before and seen the rising positivity rates, and I’m concerned about it,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a news conference last week.
Officials do have hope a third wave can still be averted. They’ve said people should keep taking steps to protect themselves and others, like wearing a mask and staying socially distant.
The rise in new cases is being seen among people 18-29 and 30-39, particularly in the Lincoln Park, Old Town and Portage Park neighborhoods. Older people, who have had greater access to vaccines so far and who are most at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, are not seeing significant upticks. The city is targeting its warnings at younger people.
Another 25 Illinoisans were reported dead from coronavirus during the past day. The most recent Illinois victims included eight people from Cook County.
At least 21,326 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,275 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
The state reported 3,526 confirmed cases over the past day, the most in a single day since early February. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,248,111.
Across Illinois, an average of 109,073 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 5,550,599 vaccine doses of the 7,095,305 directly provided to them.
About 1,164,661 million doses of vaccine have been administered to Chicagoans, and 1,339,079 doses have been administered in the city overall.
Another 367,823 vaccines have been administered in long-term care facilities, which have been provided with 448,830 doses. Those vaccinations are done through a federal partnership with pharmacy chains.
All together, at least 5,918,422 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois out of 7,544,135 doses provided to state entities.
Illinoisans outside Chicago who are 16 and older will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 12 as more doses are coming into the state. Pritzker ahs also detailed how the state will reopen in coming weeks — as long as more people are vaccinated and COVID-19 cases and deaths don’t surge.
More doses are coming to the city, too. April and May will be especially big for vaccinations, Arwady said. Chicago is doing 1C vaccinations, which includes people 16 and older with qualifying underlying conditions and essential workers.
People are still at risk from COVID-19 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.
Illinois’ seven-day positivity rose to 3.5 percent Thursday with 96,177 tests reported. It was at 3.3 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, rose to 4 percent Thursday. It was at 3.9 percent Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, 1,411 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 304 people in the ICU and 121 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, three deaths and 745 confirmed cases were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,030 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 257,542 confirmed cases, according to state data.
The city is seeing an average of three deaths per day, down from an average of four per day the week prior. That’s the lowest that figure has been in months, Arwady previously said. During the peak of the second, fall surge in the pandemic, nearly 25 people per day were being killed by COVID-19; during the peak of the first surge in the spring, nearly 50 people were killed per day.
An average of 519 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 41 percent increase from the previous week. At the same time, testing has fallen by 3 percent since a week ago.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 4.6 percent, up from 3.4 percent the week before.
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