CHICAGO — While a record number of voters already submitted their ballots across the U.S., many are still heading to the polls Tuesday as a second wave of COVID-19 infections continues across Illinois.
State officials said they spent weeks preparing to make in-person voting as safe as possible, including delivering millions of masks and tens of thousands of face shields to local election officials ahead of Tuesday’s election.
They said it’s also important everyone do their part by wearing masks correctly, social distancing and using hand sanitizer. Additionally, officials urged voters to arrive at their polling place with a clear plan of how they will vote so they can get in and out as quickly as possible, minimizing their risk of coronavirus exposure.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 6,516 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 68 additional related deaths Tuesday. The case positivity rate from October 27-November 2 — which reflects the number of new confirmed cases compared to the number of tests over that period — rose for a 10th consecutive day to 8.2%.
Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday the pandemic is far from over and warned communities could feel the effects weeks from now if guidelines are not followed.
“The fact is that local officials who are not doing the right thing are the ones who are going to be responsible for the rates of infection going through the roof, and our hospitals getting overrun, and people are dying,” Pritzker said. “If they don’t enforce the rules that is why those rules exist, we didn’t make them up.”
Health officials said they’re also concerned about election night parties and people defying state guidelines.
The current case positivity rate in Illinois is near levels last reported in late May, while data compiled by WGN shows the more than 82,000 new tests reported Tuesday brings the 7-day testing average to 81,509, nearly quadrupling numbers reported in the spring.
Since the start of October, the state’s 7-day average of cases has more than tripled to reach 6,719 as of Tuesday, while the 7-day average of deaths remains above 40 after rising from around 20 in late September.
Additionally, the 68 deaths reported Tuesday is the biggest single-day increase since October 21 when 69 deaths were reported. Prior to that, the last date the state reported more than 60 coronavirus-related deaths was June 24.
Hospitalizations statewide continue to rise as well, with the IDPH reporting 3,594 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday night, including 755 in intensive care and 326 on ventilators.
After beginning to rise in early October, the number of hospitalizations is now near a level last reported in late May, while the number of patients in intensive care is near the level reported in mid-June.
Hospital resources including available beds in intensive care units and available ventilators remain above the state’s “warning” level of 25% statewide and in every region as of Tuesday.
All of Illinois will be under additional coronavirus mitigation measures including a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants as of Wednesday, while positivity rates in every region established in the Restore Illinois plan are above the state’s “failsafe” level and either stable or rising.
Even stricter “Tier 2” mitigation measures remain in place in northwest Illinois and could come to DuPage and Kane Counties, as well as the southern Illinois region, this week if their 7-day positivity rates remain above the “failsafe” level of 8%.
Health officials in Indiana reported 2,952 new cases of COVID-19 and 50 additional deaths Tuesday, while the 7-day positivity rate from October 21-27 came in at 8.4%.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb mobilized the National Guard Monday to provide assistance at 133 of the state’s hardest-hit long-term care facilities. About 1,350 guard troops will assist with health screenings and testing so staff at the facilities can focus on patient care.
As the coronavirus pandemic surges across the nation, Texas has surpassed California in recording the highest number of positive coronavirus tests in the U.S. so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In recent weeks new hot spots have emerged in places including the rural upper Midwest and along the U.S.-Mexico border El Paso, where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent additional medical personnel and equipment.