By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The state’s rolling seven-day average COVID-19 case positivity rate decreased by a half point Tuesday to 10.4 percent as hospitalizations continued to show signs of leveling, but officials urged caution ahead of the holiday weekend.
The 6,134 people hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Monday night marked a decrease of 37 from the day prior, while intensive care beds in use for the disease decreased by three from the day prior to 1,203.
Ventilator usage increased to a second-wave high, however, reaching 668, an increase of 34 from the day prior.
But Gov. JB Pritzker warned during his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday in Chicago that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday could counteract the trend of apparent leveling.
“I want to remind everyone that our hospitals are still under siege by this latest upswing of COVID cases,” Pritzker said. “And with the latest mitigations not expected to show up in the numbers for at least another week or 10 days, Thanksgiving this year needs to be different.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike encouraged Illinoisans to see their families virtually, rather than meeting in person. She said she was “cautiously optimistic” about the leveling hospitalization numbers, but she noted caution is still needed.
“Without even knowing it, you could be putting your friends and family or yourself in grave danger,” she said. “Please stay home this year. Let’s save lives together.”
Another 125 COVID-19-positive individuals were reported to have died over the previous 24 hours, according to IDPH, the seventh time the one-day death toll has topped 100 in the past two weeks.
That brought the death toll to 11,677 among 674,089 confirmed or probable cases since the pandemic began as the state reported another 9,469 cases Tuesday. More than 9.9 million test results have been reported.
Ezike said that the impact goes beyond those suffering from the virus.
“Even if you haven’t been directly touched by loss related to COVID-19, even if you are among the almost 12 million who have not been diagnosed with infection, there is still a heavy mental impact that is taking a toll on you; it’s taking a toll on all of us,” she said.
She said the stress of job losses and loneliness of social distancing can be difficult to handle.
“Any or all of these things can cause short-term, and maybe even long-term mental health difficulties,” she said, noting that many are “suffering in silence.”
“Please don’t underestimate how far a smile or a kind word can go, or an offer to pick up carryout from a restaurant and leave it on someone’s doorstep, or simply provide an ear to listen to someone talk about their day or their frustrations,” she said.
She urged those suffering from depression to utilize Illinois’ free emotional support text line to contact mental health professionals by texting “talk” to 552020 or “hablar” to the same number for Spanish speakers.
Of the state’s 11 mitigation regions, nine saw their positivity rates decrease from the day prior as of Nov. 21, while Region 9 in Lake and McHenry counties increased and Region 8 in DuPage and Kane counties remained level.
The positivity rates ranged from 12.5 percent in southern Illinois’ Region 5 to 18.5 percent in Will and Kankakee counties, which make up Region 7.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.