CHICAGO — Illinois remains in the midst of the deadliest period of the pandemic to date Thursday, even as the expected approval of a vaccine brings hope for its eventual end.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 11,101 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases Thursday, as well as 196 additional deaths. Measured over the past two weeks, the state has lost about 136 residents a day on average, setting another record as a spike which began in mid-October continues.
The entire U.S. recorded more than 3,000 deaths and 106,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday according to Johns Hopkins University, setting all-time records for both and reporting more American lives lost in a single day than on D-Day or 9/11.
Thursday’s figures come as a predicted spike in COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving holiday is expected in the coming days. Illinois is currently averaging just over 9,000 new COVID-19 cases over a 7-day period. This average has been generally flat since it stopped declining around November 29.
According to IDPH, 9.5% of COVID-19 tests performed from December 3-9 confirmed a new case of COVID-19, continuing a drop in the case positivity rate which began on November 16.
With more than 114,000 new COVID-19 tests reported in the past 24 hours, a slow rise in the state’s 7-day testing average which began in early December continued as it now stands at about 96,000 tests a day.
Most regions of Illinois continue to see their test positivity rates either remain flat or decline, with most coming in between 12% and 15% as of Thursday.
Health experts said if a predicted spike in cases caused by travel over the Thanksgiving weekend does occur, signs would likely start emerging towards the end of the week.
Health officials in Indiana reported 6,604 new COVID-19 cases and 96 deaths Thursday, while the state’s test positivity rate from November 27 – December 3 came in at 13.9%.
The state is also reporting 3,221 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 patients, while more than 43% of intensive care beds in the state are currently occupied by Covid patients.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said Wednesday that “Indiana is on fire” in terms of counties which have reached the state’s “red” status for COVID-19 infections. The governor announced stricter limits on gatherings and sports, and directed hospitals to suspend non-emergency procedures.
“Our nurses, doctors and assistants are overwhelmed. They’re beyond exhausted,” the governor said.
Hospitalizations in Illinois dropped after rising for a couple days Thursday, with IDPH reporting 5,138 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday night, including 1,081 in intensive care and 606 on ventilators.
A committee of outside experts is expected to approve the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech Thursday night, since it’s reportedly 95% effective and already received approval in the U.K.
As soon the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval, millions of doses will be shipped across the U.S., including 109,000 doses which are expected in Illinois as part of the first shipment.
The FDA also authorized the first direct-to-consumer COVID-19 test Wednesday, which allows people to people self-collect a nasal swab sample and send it to the company LabCorp for evaluation. The kit is available for use by any individual 18 years and older without a prescription.
(This story was originally published on December 10, 2020)