CHICAGO — Even as some states continue to see a surge in new COVID-19 infections, a post-holiday rise appears to have leveled off in Illinois, opening the possibility for qualifying regions to see a lessening of restrictions this week.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 4,776 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases Monday, as well as 53 additional deaths. While the weekly average of cases reported in the state has risen steadily since late December, it has remained near 7,000 cases for the past three days.
Compared to many U.S. states, Illinois has seen a smaller rise in the number of new Covid infections which experts attribute to holiday travel and gatherings in recent weeks.
With 55.2 cases reported per 100,000 residents over the past week according to the CDC, Illinois ranks around the middle of states, while the worst-hit areas are seeing nearly twice that amount.
As Illinois seems to have avoided a major post-holiday surge of COVID-19, Governor JB Pritzker reaffirmed on Monday that qualifying regions can begin moving down to less-restrictive mitigation measures starting January 15.
WATCH ABOVE: Governor JB Pritzker and health officials give an update on COVID-19 and vaccination efforts in Illinois Monday
State health officials picked January 15 because it represented one full incubation period after the New Year’s holiday. As of Monday, only three regions meet the metrics for moving to “Tier 2” mitigations, although many are on the cusp of qualifying.
Senators Durbin and Duckworth announced Monday that federal dollars are heading to Illinois to help with more testing and the giving of shots.
This includes $574.3 million for COVID-19 testing and $90.158 million for vaccination distribution in Illinois. The Chicago Department of Public Health will also receive $155 million for testing and $24.3 million for vaccine distribution.
Illinois has seen this leveling off of new reported cases even as the number of tests performed in the state on average is rising back towards levels seen prior to the holidays.
With 66,697 new tests reported over the past 24 hours, Illinois is now averaging more than 91,000 tests over a seven-day period. This is a marked increase from the average of about 70,000 tests seen at the start of the month, but remains below the peak of more than 100,000 around Thanksgiving.
As tests rise and cases drop on average, Illinois is seeing a decline in its 7-day case positivity rate, which dropped to 7.6% as of Monday. Additionally, while test positivity rates had been rising or flat on average in most regions after the holidays, they have begun to fall again in recent days.
Hospitalizations in the state have been falling as well, with 3,540 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday night, including 759 in intensive care and 401 on ventilators.
Even as the state is seeing some promising signs, Illinois continues to average more than 100 reported Covid deaths a day, higher than the peak seen in the spring.
Pritzker said vaccination efforts continue across the state, as Illinois has received 587,900 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as of Monday and 334,939 have been administered so far.
Some regions have “substantially completed” the first phase of vaccinations which includes about 850,000 frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, Pritzker said.
Those regions can begin administering doses to people 65 years of age and older and “essential” workers who make up the second “1B” phase of vaccinations.
A new variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom that’s believed to be 50% more contagious has been identified in Indiana, state health officials said Monday.
The new variant has not yet been confirmed in Illinois, but IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said it’s likely just circulating in small enough numbers where it has not been detected.
Ezike said the variant would likely become the dominant strain in Illinois within a few months, after which Illinois would see “more infectious spread.”
“We know that this is brewing and therefore we have the opportunity to use that information and make better choices around the mitigations, around avoiding gatherings, so we can get as many people vaccinated and stay safe before this variant takes over,” Ezike said.
Indiana reported 3,726 new COVID-19 cases and 30 additional deaths Monday, while the state continues to see a decline in hospitalizations following a spike in early December.
Over the weekend, City of Chicago extended its stay-at-home advisory which calls on residents to only leave their homes for essential purposes and limit gatherings to household members only.
State limits which closed entertainment venues, bar indoor dining at bars and restaurants and limit capacities for businesses remain in effect in the city as well.
City health officials reported a 7-day average of 1,028 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths Monday, with a test positivity rate of 10.3%.
Thousands of Chicago Public School students are returning classrooms Monday, despite continued pushback from teachers and parents.