Illinois coronavirus positivity rate falls back below 4%: ‘Things are looking up a little bit’

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Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady speaks at a March 22 news conference in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. After a month of increases, the city’s positivity rate is moving in the right direction, Arwady said Tuesday.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady speaks at a March 22 news conference in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. After a month of increases, the city’s positivity rate is moving in the right direction, Arwady said Tuesday. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The numbers have now trended in the right direction for eight straight days, including in Chicago, where the regional positivity rate has inched down to 5.5% after more than a month of troubling increases. 

Illinois’ COVID-19 infection rate hit its lowest point in two weeks Tuesday, boosting optimism that the state is tamping down its latest viral resurgence.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,587 new coronavirus cases diagnosed among 62,406 tests, decreasing the seven-day average statewide positivity rate to 3.8% — the first time that figure has fallen below 4% since April 6.

The positivity rate hit an all-time low of 2.1% in mid-March but shot up to 4.4% within a month, throwing off Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan and prompting officials to sound the alarm on a potential third wave of COVID-19 sweeping Illinois just as a historic vaccination effort gained steam.

The numbers have now trended in the right direction for eight straight days, including in Chicago, where the regional positivity rate has inched down to 5.5% after more than a month of troubling increases.

“Things are looking up a little bit,” city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during an online Q+A. “Just over the last three to four days, we’ve seen stabilization or just a little decline. … That’s exactly what we want to see.”

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.

An average of 657 city residents have tested positive each day over the past week. That rate is down 6% compared to the previous week, though there is “still some concern” at that level,” Arwady said.

“We want this number down under 400 and ideally under 200, but starting to see some signs of a turning around is by far the most important thing,” she said.

Hospitals across the state are still feeling the effects of Illinois’ uptick, even if it is flattening out. COVID-19 patients took up 2,288 beds statewide Monday night, the highest number of admissions since the first week of February.

Experts say increased hospitalizations and deaths typically lag a few weeks behind a surge in cases, though COVID-19 fatalities have not yet jumped compared to last month. The state reported nine more coronavirus deaths Tuesday, including that of a Cook County woman in her 40s.

COVID-19 has killed at least 21,694 Illinoisans since March 2020, as more than 1.3 million residents have tested positive.

Meanwhile, more than 3.4 million residents are fully vaccinated — almost 27% of the population.

The state reported 81,963 shots were doled out Monday, though that’s likely an undercount “due to a technical issue” with doses administered through Walgreens, officials said. More than half of all residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose so far.

Illinoisans 16 and older are eligible for a shot. For help finding a vaccine appointment, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284. Thousands of appointments are also available throughout the week at a federally run site in Gary, Indiana.

City officials on Tuesday updated Chicago’s emergency travel order, which now requires unvaccinated travelers from 26 states considered COVID-19 hot spots to quarantine upon arrival, or else show up with a recent negative test.

One of Illinois’ immediate neighbors remains among the “orange level” states — Michigan, which is grappling with the worst resurgence in the nation — and another, Indiana, meets the city’s criteria, but it’s not yet on the list “because it’s close to the cut-off and cases are trending in the right direction,” officials said.

The remaining orange states are New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Colorado, Vermont, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Alaska, Virginia, New Hampshire, Minnesota, West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The order — intended as an educational tool, and one that hasn’t yet resulted in any city fines since it was implemented last summer — doesn’t apply to travelers who are at least two weeks removed from their final vaccine dose. Officials still advise against any unnecessary travel.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

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April 20, 2021 at 01:50PM

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