CHICAGO — Illinois is now averaging more COVID-19 deaths over the course of a week than it was when the state saw an initial spike of the disease in May, making it the deadliest period in the state since the start of the pandemic, data released Thursday shows.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 192 additional COVID-19 deaths Thursday, the second-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic, just a day after the state set a new record.
However, in both cases officials said the daily totals were higher because “some data” was delayed due to the holiday weekend. Governor JB Pritzker said Wednesday it is “hard to tell” how much of the daily spikes are due to delays in the data.
“It’s just a fact of life that hospitals don’t exactly report exactly the same or exactly at one time, whenever IDPH gets the information they report it to you so that you get it all as fast as we get it,” Pritzker said.
Officials typically use a 7-day rolling average when looking at COVID-19 statistics to account for these day-to-day fluctuations in the data. While the weekly average of deaths reported in Illinois began to drop on Thanksgiving Day, the decline was erased by the deaths reported yesterday.
The 192 additional deaths reported Thursday bring the state’s 7-day average to about 124 COVID-19 related deaths a day, surpassing the previous peak of 117 seen in mid-May. Illinois is averaging more deaths a day than the spring when measured over a longer 14-day period as well.
“While it’s likely that some of this increase can be attributed to a data lag from the holiday weekend, we also know that higher case numbers and higher numbers of hospitalizations do lead to, tragically, even more lives lost and we’ve surpassed the spring records by thousands in recent weeks,” Pritzker said Wednesday.
The IDPH also reported 10,959 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the state’s 7-day average of cases to about 8,900. The average has flattened for the past few days after declining since mid-November.
Additionally, the IDPH said 10.4% of tests performed from November 26-December 2 confirmed new cases of COVID-19, representing a slight decline in the case positivity rate. Officials continue to report test results from rapid saliva-based antigen tests as “probable” cases following CDC guidelines.
While a decline in reported deaths has been erased in recent days, Illinois has also seen a decline in its 7-day average of reported COVID-19 tests since Thanksgiving. With 106,778 new tests reported Thursday, the decline has stopped but the current 7-day average of about 85,000 tests remains below the 100,000 average seen on Thanksgiving Day.
Hospitalizations in Illinois continue to decline, with the IDPH reporting 5,653 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday night, including 1,170 in intensive care and 693 on ventilators.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday patients are averaging less time in the hospital with COVID-19 than in the spring, with the previous average of 9-11 days declining to about 7-9 days recently.
“We’ve cut some time off,” Ezike said. “You have a much better chance of surviving COVID-19 in the hospital now as opposed to wave one.”
Health officials continue to estimate that 97% of confirmed cases have recovered to date.