Pritzker: COVID-19 is third leading cause of death in Illinois as state passes 11K deaths, 600K cases

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CHICAGO — Illinois passed two more grim milestones in the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday, with the state now reporting more than 11,000 deaths related to the disease and 600,000 cases to date.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 140 additional coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, bringing the year-to-date total to 11,014 total deaths.

Among those lost in Illinois, the elderly made up the majority of deaths including 47% who were 80 years of age or older and 24% who were between 70 and 79 years old. Roughly half of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities like nursing homes.

All of Illinois will move to stricter “Tier 3” COVID-19 restrictions starting Friday, Governor JB Pritzker announced Tuesday, saying the measures fall short of a stay-at-home order but still aim to get people to stay home as much as possible.

The mitigation measures include the closure of indoor entertainment venues like theaters, museums and casinos, a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants, a “pause” of indoor sports and limits on household gatherings to members of the household only.

WATCH ABOVE: Governor JB Pritzker and health officials give a daily update on COVID-19 in Illinois Wednesday

Speaking Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker said this second surge of COVID-19 is worse on several levels. Unlike when healthcare workers were being praised and honored for their hard work in the late spring, Pritzker said doctors, nurses and specialists are being confronted by patients and critics who don’t believe COVID-19 is a serious issue. 

“Too many people think COVID 19 is a hoax,” Pritzker said.

Illinois ranks behind more populous states including New York, Texas, California and Florida, as well as New Jersey in terms of total COVID-19 deaths to date, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With 8,922 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases also reported by the IDPH Wednesday, Illinois has seen 606,771 reported cases to date. Half of those cases have been reported since early October, when a second wave of infections began in the state.

When population is taken into account, Illinois ranks 11th in the nation in terms of total coronavirus-related deaths and 9th in total COVID-19 cases, behind several Midwestern states including North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The Midwest is currently seeing a higher incidence of new COVID-19 cases per capita than any other region of the country, CDC data shows.

From November 11-17, the IDPH reports 11.9% of all tests performed in the state confirmed new COVID-19 cases, as the case positivity rate continues to decline from a peak of 13.2% reported on November 13.

Test positivity rates in nearly every region established in the Restore Illinois plan remained flat for a second consecutive day, although most are above 15% as of Wednesday. The South Suburban Region continues to report the highest positivity rates in the state, with a rate of 20.7% as of Sunday.

Hospitalizations statewide continue to rise, with the IDPH reporting 5,953 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday night including 1,146 patients in intensive care and 547 on ventilators.

While most regions have not yet reached the state’s warning levels for hospital resources, the south suburban region including Will and Kankakee is below the minimum of 20% capacity with 23 intensive care beds available across the region as of Tuesday.

With 103,569 new COVID-19 tests reported over the past 24 hours, Illinois is approaching a 7-day average of 100,000 tests a day. The state continues to report cases confirmed by saliva-based antigen tests as “probable cases,” following CDC guidelines. Those tests represent 9% of the total reported Wednesday.

Just a week after Pfizer first revealed promising preliminary results of its coronavirus vaccine, the company says its ongoing study suggests the shots are 95% effective and protect older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19. The company is expected to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine within days.

The first COVID-19 diagnostic test that can be used for self-testing at home was approved Tuesday night by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to the FDA, the rapid results test created by Lucira is authorized by prescription use only for those 14 and older who are suspected of having COVID-19.

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