For the first time in nearly 16 months, Illinois has gone an entire day without losing a resident to COVID-19.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported no new COVID-19-related deaths on Monday, which had not happened before since March 16, 2020 – days before Governor JB Pritzker ordered residents to stay at home as much as possible to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
It is always possible that one or more deaths will eventually be added to the rare total zero. Authorities often adjust daily figures based on delayed reports from hospitals, especially after vacations.
And the mourning is far from over. The state reported 11 deaths over the weekend and 16 more on Tuesday.
But for now, the end of a miserable 476-day period with viral deaths is the latest sign of optimism for a state slowly emerging from the pandemic.
“We’re all very, very happy that our infection rate in the state of Illinois is going down. The number of cases, the number of hospitalizations, the number of deaths – very, very low, ”Pritzker said at an independent press conference. “The vaccines got the job done. Thank goodness for the vaccines.
Chicago has not reported any coronavirus deaths for a full week, although that may also change as those numbers are typically delayed. Before June 20, the city reported just three days without COVID-19 deaths, according to Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady, who called the decline “good news.”
“We want to keep lowering those numbers, and the best way to help is to get yourself vaccinated,” Arwady said.
About 70% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and 54% are fully immunized.
This helped reduce the death rate in Illinois, where authorities reported an average of 49 deaths each day from the pandemic – about two per hour.
New COVID-19 deaths per day
Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health
The graph is not displayed correctly? Click here.
Over the past week, the state has recorded an average of just eight deaths per day. In the darkest days of a devastating resurgence last fall, the state was losing more than 150 residents every day.
Illinois’ worst day came on December 2, when 238 lives were lost to the virus.
Overall, COVID-19 has killed at least 23,272 people statewide, and likely 2,455 more, according to public health officials. This is roughly equivalent to wiping out the population of the northern suburbs of Morton Grove.
Despite recent progress, authorities are pleading with residents to continue to take precautions seriously. With growing concerns about the more infectious Delta variant of the virus, the average case positivity rate in Illinois has risen to 1.1%, from an all-time low of 0.6% on June 25.
One reason for the jump is that far fewer people have been tested – an average of around 27,000 daily so far in July, compared to 45,000 daily tests in the first week of June.
Chicago’s regional positivity rate doubled in one week to 0.8%, but with testing declining, Arwady said she was “not concerned about that just yet.”
The state has confirmed 174 cases of the Delta variant so far, but only a small fraction of positive tests are analyzed for it. Experts agree that there are probably thousands of cases already in the state and expect it to become the dominant strain by fall.
“We already have it here, but not yet in extraordinarily large numbers,” Pritzker said. “The Delta variant makes people sicker faster, and it’s very disconcerting, but let’s be honest: if you are vaccinated you are very well protected.
Almost 1.4 million Illinois have been infected since March 2020.