SPRINGFIELD — The state reported its second-highest one-day COVID-19 count Thursday with 14,612, but it also reported its second-highest daily testing output with 113,447 results reported over the previous 24 hours.
The 168 COVID-19 related deaths reported Thursday made for the third-highest one-day total since the pandemic began. On Friday, the state reported another 126 deaths. That brings the total death toll to 11,301 among 634,395 confirmed cases out of 9.6 million test results reported.
Dr. Kamaljit Singh, an infectious disease specialist at NorthShore Medical Group, called the COVID-19 pandemic a “21st century mass casualty event” and said the hospital system is “close to a breaking point.”
That came as hospitalizations for the virus surpassed 6,000 for the first time since the pandemic began with 6,037 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds at the end of Wednesday. By Thursday that number rose to 6,111, marking the 26 straight day of increasing hospitalizations.
Intensive care bed and ventilator usage for the virus each blew past second-wave highs as well, with 1,196 and 604 in use, respectively. Approximately 30 percent of ICU beds and 71 percent of ventilators remained unused at the end of Thursday.
“I know at times that numbers can just fly over our heads, but to put it in simple terms, one in five hospitalized patients will die of COVID-19 infection,” Singh said. “It reminds me of growing up during the Vietnam War. I could never wrap my brain around the numbers of soldiers’ lives lost but the pictures were terribly compelling. Unfortunately, I can’t show you pictures of the suffering of our patients, but hopefully you can tell from the tone of my voice that this is a real human tragedy.”
He said the capacity restrictions and limits to indoor gatherings seen in the Tier 3 mitigations that will take effect Friday are needed to limit the virus’ spread.
“But we will also need to change our private behavior, because a lot of transmissions are occurring at birthday parties, weddings and family gatherings,” he said. “This is especially important as we approach Thanksgiving, and it’s critical that we make our bubble smaller, and only celebrate with our immediate household members.”
He said the goal is to bring the positivity rate down to the low single-digits as the nation awaits a safe and effective vaccine, as that is the only way to achieve any semblance of normalcy.
Singh joined Gov. JB Pritzker at his daily briefing Thursday in Chicago. The governor seconded his message.
“Outside of things you have to leave home for like school, work and groceries, we’re asking everyone to stay home as much as you can,” he said. “This is a temporary thing that we can do to reduce the spread of this virus in our communities. That will give our health care workers some relief and ensure that there will be hospital beds and doctors and nurses available for emergencies.”
The statewide seven-day average case positivity rate increased slightly from the day prior to 12 percent, remaining more than a point below its Nov. 13 high of 13.2 percent. The one-day positivity rate Thursday was 12.9 percent, which was the fifth highest single-day number of the second wave.
Eight of the state’s 11 COVID-19 mitigation regions saw the same or lower positivity rates from the day before as of Monday, as that data lags three days behind the current day.
“We continue to see concerning trends statewide in our hospitalization data, but in the most recent two or three days, we’ve seen a hint of leveling in new cases and positivity rates in most of our regions,” Pritzker said. “It’s too early at this point to determine if this stabilizing of the average is a meaningful trend or an anomaly, but we’re glad to at least have a pause in our upward movement.”
He said it is still important to maintain social distance, wear face coverings, wash hands and avoid large gatherings. That’s also true for the Thanksgiving holiday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at the briefing.
“My fear is that the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths will spike even further in the weeks after Thanksgiving, because people spent that holiday together, mixing households,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to have to look back and say, ‘if only we didn’t have people over for Thanksgiving, such-and-such, so-and-so, might still be here for New Year’s.’”