Illinois reports 5,059 COVID-19 cases, 79 deaths as tests drop and cases rise on average after holidays


CHICAGO — Illinois continues to see a rise in COVID-19 positivity rates and new cases reported on average which began after the holidays, although the increase appears to be far less than spikes being seen in the worst-hit states.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 5,059 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, 79 additional deaths and 48,254 new tests Monday.

This brings the state’s 7-day average of new Covid infections to about 6,074, marking the fifth consecutive day this average has risen.

Officials said 8.6% of all tests performed from December 28-January 3 confirmed a new cases of COVID-19, as the state’s case positivity rate has risen for the past week as well.

All this comes as the number of tests reported by the state remains far below the level seen before the holidays, when Illinois was averaging more than 90,000 daily tests over the course of a week. As of Monday, this average is around 70,500.

A dip in the number of tests and cases reported over the Thanksgiving holiday was followed by a spike in single-day totals as state officials received a backlog of data.

This makes determining the extent of the latest post-holiday rise in new cases difficult in Illinois, as it’s unclear whether this drop is due to a decline in testing or delays in reporting. State officials have not provided any clarification other than to say “numbers may be low” due to the holidays.

Vaccine distribution continues across the United States, although the country fell short of its goal of administering 20 million doses by the end of 2020. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that 14 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been distributed across the country and 4 million have been given to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Fauci said while the holidays, storage requirements and miscommunication caused delays, distribution will be ramping up in the coming weeks and the goal of administering 1 million doses a day seems to be realistic.

A form posted online by the Cook County Health Department caused confusion Monday as it appeared to offer any suburban resident the chance to register for notifications on where and when they may be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

But officials said the website is only for healthcare workers who are not affiliated with big hospitals or healthcare systems. 

Illinois has seen a rise in new reported infections over the past week, but data from the CDC shows the increase is far below those being seen in other states, especially when population is taken into account.

Arizona averaged more than 120 cases per 100K residents over the past seven days, according to the CDC, while California, Tennessee and South Carolina all averaged more than 90 cases. Based on available data, Illinois averaged about 47.3 cases per 100,000 residents.

Hospitalizations in Illinois ticked up Monday although they have been trending down since late November, with IDPH reporting 3,948 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday night including 816 in intensive care and 471 on ventilators.

The number of deaths reported in Illinois on average continues to decline as well, with the state averaging about 109 deaths a day over the past two weeks, although this is just below the highest level seen in the spring.

All of Illinois remains under Tier 3 coronavirus mitigation measures, which Governor JB Pritzker said would extend past the holidays due to fears of a surge in new COVID-19 cases, although he didn’t provide exact criteria for lifting them.

While many regions have also seen a rise in their COVID-19 positivity rates and cases averages in recent days, several remain below the state’s original criteria for moving to less-restrictive “Tier 2” mitigations.

This would include the reopening of entertainment venues like museums and movie theaters, as well as returning sports programs to earlier guidelines.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a tweet Saturday that the City of Chicago has distributed more than 95% of vaccine doses the city has received from the federal government. According to City data, 33,607 of those doses have been administered in Chicago as of Sunday.

Special Education and Pre-K teachers are expected to return to Chicago Public Sschools classrooms Monday, although the Chicago Teachers Union says some members will continue working from home as they believe buildings are not safe enough to return. The union has made several other demands and more than 30 aldermen called on CPS to set clearer criteria for reopening.

CPS officials say they will be following guidelines from health officials to minimize any risk to teachers or students.

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