JOLIET, IL — Even as coronavirus positivity rates remained stable or declined in most parts of Illinois over the third week in September, public health officials reported the number of COVID-19 patients in the state's hospitals rose to its highest levels in more than three months.
More than 1,700 patients in Illinois were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday for the first time since June 18, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The biggest declines in the percentage of tests that came back positive over the course of the week were in suburban Cook, Lake and McHenry counties, which each had positivity rates decline by 0.7 percentage points, according to data from the department through Tuesday the most recent day available.
In Will and Kankakee counties, Region 7, the positivity rate stood at 5.7 percent, an increase of 0.1 points. State officials last week lifted restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings in the region in response to region after it managed to bring its positivity rate below the key 8-percent threshold.
But at the same time, the number of new hospitalizations of people with symptoms of the coronavirus rose by two to a rounded rolling seven-day average of 11 people a day. And the percentage of available hospital beds also declined during the past week, with surgical bed availability falling by 2 percentage points to 28 percent and the ICU bed available reduced by 1 point to 33 percent, according to the department.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate rose significantly in only two parts of the state — the Rockford area, Region 1 in the governor's coronavirus resurgence mitigation plan, and Region 3, the Springfield area.
In the Rockford region, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned infections are rising at a "concerning rate," the positivity rate has risen by 2 percentage points in the past two weeks. It is on track to break the 8-percent threshold that triggers additional restrictions within the coming week.
Around Springfield, the rate also rose by a full point over the course of a week, reversing the previous week's decline.
Outside of the Chicago area, the Peoria and Marion regions had the most significant declines in positivity rates, falling by 0.6 point.
The number of counties in Illinois considered to be at a "warning level" for a surge in coronavirus cases declined by six this week to 17. They now include: Bond, Boone, Cass, Christian, Clinton, Crawford, DeWitt, Fayette, Grundy, Hamilton, Macon, Menard, Peoria, Putnam, Washington, Wayne and Winnebago counties.
Common factors causing counties to reach the warning level — meaning two or more of the eight county-level risk indicators established by the state reaches a potentially dangerous level — include university and college parties and sports, large gatherings, bars, clubs, weddings, funerals, nursing homes, prisons, jails, factories and schools, according to a statement from the state public health agency.
According to public health officials, some communities lack access to tests for people without symptoms of the virus and, in others, local officials are neglecting to enforce social distancing requirements and the governor's mask mandate.
"Several counties are taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus, including increasing testing opportunities, stressing the importance of testing to providers, hiring additional contact tracers, working with schools, meeting with local leaders, and educating businesses and large venues about the importance of mitigation measures."
If one of the state's 11 COVID-19 mitigation regions sustains a positivity rate above 8 percent for three or more consecutive days, public health officials promise to impose additional limitations on businesses and activities to slow the spread of the virus.
This has led to increased restrictions in Region 4, which remain in place despite positivity falling below 8 percent for six straight days, and in Region 7, where they were lifted last week after a decline in positivity.
Such restrictions may also be triggered by a seven-day trend of increasing coronavirus positivity rates couple with a rapidly rising COVID-19 hospitalization rate — meaning the availability of hospital beds drops below 20 percent or the rounded rolling average number of daily new hospital admissions with "COVID-like illnesses," or CLI, rises during seven or more days out of the previous. No region has yet come near approaching this alternate threshold.
As of Thursday night, there were 1,637 people in Illinois hospitals suffering from COVID-19, an increase of 156 people over the past week.
Of those hospitalized, 371 were in ICUs, 42 more than a week earlier. The number of patients on ventilators declined from 149 to 124.
On Friday, state public health officials announced 2,514 new confirmed cases of coronavirus out of nearly 70,000 specimens collected over the previous 24 hours. The preliminary seven-day average positivity rate stands at 3.6 percent.
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Data through Tuesday was released Friday. Find the latest metrics from all regions below:
Region 1 (Rockford EMS region)
7.6 percent coronavirus positivity rate on Sept. 22, up from 6.4 percent last week and 2 full percentage points in the prior two weeks
Four new daily hospital admissions, on average, of patients with "COVID-like illnesses," or CLI, over the past week, up by one from a week earlier
38 percent of surgical beds and 50 percent of ICU beds are available, 1 point fewer surgical beds and 8 percentage points more available ICU beds than the previous week
Region 2 (Peoria EMS region)
5.3 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.6 percentage points over the past week
11 new daily hospital admissions of people with COVID-19 symptoms, up from 10 per day a week earlier
39 percent of surgical beds and 41 percent of ICU beds are available, the same amount of surgical beds and 3 points more ICU beds than the prior week
Region 3 (Springfield EMS region)
5.3 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, rising from 4.3 percent a week earlier to the same level it stood two weeks ago
Four new daily hospital admissions, the same as the prior week
32 percent of surgical beds and 39 percent of ICU beds are available, the same amount of ICU beds but 5 points fewer surgical beds than a week earlier
Region 4 (Edwardsville EMS region)
7.1 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, falling below the key 8 percent threshold for the previous six days to its lowest level since Aug. 5. Additional restrictions placed by state officials on businesses and activities in the Metro East region remained in place as of Friday
Five new daily hospital admissions with COVID-19 symptoms, the same as a week earlier
39 percent of surgical beds and 61 percent of ICU beds are available, compared to 31 percent of surgical beds and 42 percent of ICU beds a week earlier
Region 5 (Marion EMS region)
6.3 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.6 percentage points over the prior week to the level where it sat from two weeks ago
Three new hospital admissions with CLI every day in the region, on average, compared with four a week earlier
46 percent of surgical beds and 64 percent of ICU beds are available, the same amount of ICU beds and 1 percentage point more surgical beds are available compared to a week prior
Region 6 (Champaign EMS region)
2.5 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.2 percentage points compared to a week earlier. The region's coronavirus positivity rate remains the lowest in the state, aided by the comprehensive testing conducted at the University of Illinois
10 people a day are being admitted to hospitals in the region with coronavirus symptoms, an increase of two compared to a week earlier
32 percent of surgical beds and 33 percent of ICU beds are available, a decline of 6 percentage points in surgical beds and 12 points in available ICU beds over the past week
Region 7 (Will, Kankakee counties)
5.7 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, up by 0.1 percentage points during the prior week after the Pritzker administration lifted restrictions on indoor dining and other gatherings it had imposed due to the rate staying under the 8-percent threshold
The rounded rolling average of the number of people newly admitted to hospitals with symptoms of COVID-19 rose from nine to 11
28 percent of surgical beds and 33 percent of ICU beds are available at hospitals in the region, down from 30 percent of surgical beds and 34 percent of ICU beds a week earlier
Region 8 (Kane, DuPage counties)
5.3 percent coronavirus positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.2 percentage points during the prior week
11 people a day are being hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms, the same as a week ago but up from nine two weeks earlier
27 percent of surgical beds and 38 percent of ICU beds remain available, 6 points fewer surgical beds and 3 points fewer ICU beds
Region 9 (Lake, McHenry counties)
5 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.7 percentage points for the second consecutive week
Six new new hospital admissions every day, up from four the prior week
36 percent of surgical beds and 49 percent of ICU beds were available, 5 points fewer surgical beds and 11 points fewer beds in the region's ICUs than a week earlier
Region 10 (Suburban Cook County)
4.5 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.7 percentage points in the prior week to its lowest rate since July 17.
22 people a day admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms, on average, up from 20 a week earlier
26 percent of surgical beds were available and 34 percent of ICU beds were available in the region's hospitals, compared to 29 percent of surgical beds and 38 percent of ICU beds the prior week
Region 11 (Chicago)
4.6 percent positivity rate on Sept. 22, down by 0.3 percentage points during the past week to its lowest level since July 26
The average number of people admitted to the city's hospitals with CLI rose from 16 to 20.
23 percent of surgical beds were available and 32 percent of ICU beds remained available, each were down by 2 points compared to a week earlier.