Public health officials on Tuesday announced 1,362 more people have tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, the lowest number of new cases confirmed in a single day statewide in almost three weeks.
The latest coronavirus cases were detected among 45,624 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, lowering the state’s average testing positivity rate over the last week to 3.6%. Tuesday’s daily caseload is the lowest since the state added 1,337 new cases Sept. 9.
The state has logged about 1,930 new cases of the virus each day this month, up from an average of 1,812 new cases per day in August.
But the state has also run almost 7,000 more coronavirus tests per day in September compared to last month, leading to falling positivity rates in most regions — and cautious optimism from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team. Experts use the positivity rate to determine how quickly the virus is spreading.
Chicago is at 4.5% positivity, while all its surrounding regions are below 6%.
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Numbers are trending in the wrong direction in the northwest corner of the state from DeKalb west to Jo Daviess County, though, where the average positivity rate topped 8% for a third straight day — now up to 8.3% — meaning the Democratic governor’s office will step in with “mitigations,” including a ban on indoor bar and restaurant service beginning Saturday.
“The concerning uptick in Region 1’s positivity — jumping more than two percentage points in two weeks even as the majority of Illinois continues to see downward trends — demands increased efforts to stop the spread in our northwestern counties,” Pritzker said in a statement. “As other regions have demonstrated, stricter mitigations will lead to safer communities when people mask up, keep their distance, wash their hands and respect public health.”
Will and Kankakee counties previously faced tightened restrictions that have since been rescinded with the region now at 5.2%. But mitigations have been in place for more than a month in the downstate Metro East region, which is at 7.2%.
Officials also said the virus has killed 23 more Illinoisans, including a Cook County woman in her 30s. COVID-19 has claimed at least 8,637 lives statewide over the last six months, an average of about 44 deaths per day.
Nearly 5.6 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois, with more than 291,000 confirmed to carry the virus.
As of Monday night, 1,535 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 363 receiving intensive care treatment and 151 on ventilators.
Chicago health officials added four more states to the city’s travel quarantine list: Kentucky, Wyoming, Texas and Nevada.
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In all, residents and visitors to Chicago are required to self-isolate for two weeks upon arriving from 22 states and Puerto Rico, which are all considered hotspots: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.
States go on the list when they average more than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period. Despite an earlier threat to levy fines, the travel advisory is more educational than real. Compliance is voluntary. So far, warning letters are as far as City Hall has been willing to go.
“Our travel quarantine orders are primarily focused on education,” Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s health commissioner, has said. “They’ve been very successful in terms of encouraging people to change their travel patterns. Encouraging business travelers to delay travel unless it is absolutely essential.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman