Fall back? Illinois COVID-19 cases up nearly 20% as temperatures drop and people head indoors

Fall back? Illinois COVID-19 cases up nearly 20% as
temperatures drop and people head indoors 1

New cases of COVID-19 jumped nearly 20% across Illinois over the past week as colder autumn weather sends more people inside.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday reported 17,462 positive coronavirus tests for the week — about 2,495 new infections each day — compared to 14,616 throughout the prior week. The case spike outpaced a 3% increase in the number of tests performed.

Previously, weekly case counts had shrunk by more than half in Illinois since the state’s Delta variant surge peaked in late August.

Experts have long anticipated a seasonal uptick in cases, but they don’t expect it to get as bad as the devastating surge the state suffered last fall — thanks to an abundance of life-saving vaccines now readily available for residents as young as 5.

William McDade, 8, gets inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Friday while his mom Jennifer reads to him at Comer Children’s Hospital.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“It’s just gotten cold here, people have moved inside much more, and this is the time of year, when that happens, that we typically see respiratory viruses spread most easily,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “It’s why flu season doesn’t happen in the middle of July. It’s why cold season and other respiratory infection season really tends to be more often this time of year.”

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About 335 Chicagoans have tested positive each day over the last week, a 14% jump compared to the previous week.

“We may see some more additional cases around holidays. We certainly have seen it before, but I’m not worried about the major, major impact like we were seeing last year, simply because we have a lot of people vaccinated,” Arwady said.

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

Nearly 76% of Chicagoans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and about 70% are fully vaccinated. Both of those figures are in line with statewide rates.

This time last year, Illinois was on the upswing of its worst surge of the pandemic. The state set what was then a national record for a single day with 15,415 new cases confirmed Nov. 13, when the seven-day average statewide case positivity rate was over 13%.

A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s (CORE) teaches a person how to administer a COVID-19 mouth swab test in Little Village last October.

A staff member of Community Organized Relief Effort’s (CORE) teaches a person how to administer a COVID-19 mouth swab test in Little Village last October.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

That rate, which indicates how rapidly the virus is spreading, is currently at 2.1% and has been hovering there for more than a month.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are down by about half compared to the height of the Delta surge, but that improvement has leveled off. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said this week he won’t rescind his statewide indoor mask mandate until new hospital admissions show a marked decline.

Hospitals across the state were treating 1,257 coronavirus patients Thursday night, nearly the same figure as a week earlier. That’s compared to more than 2,300 during the Delta surge and more than 6,000 in the worst nights of the crisis last fall.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens during a Pullman neighborhood news conference last year.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens during a Pullman neighborhood news conference last year.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

COVID-19 deaths have remained flat, with the state reporting 183 fatalities for a third straight week — about 26 Illinois lives lost each day.

The state’s death toll is now up to 25,948 throughout a pandemic that has followed a brutally predictable pattern: rising cases counts are typically followed several weeks later by rising hospital admissions, which are accordingly followed by rising deaths.

But the vaccines have proven enormously effective in protecting residents. Less than 0.04% of vaccinated Illinoisans have ended up in a hospital with COVID-19, and 0.012% of them have died of the virus.

For help finding a shot, visit chi.gov/covidvax.

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