9 days, another 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois topped 12,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, and also passed the 700,000 mark for cases of coronavirus illness.

It took just nine days for public health officials to log 1,000 deaths, according to an Associated Press review of the data, matching the deadliest period previously in the pandemic, in late April and early May.

Officials in Illinois and across the nation pleaded Americans to limit travel during the Thanksgiving holiday to help prevent the surging coronavirus outbreak from spreading farther and faster.

But millions of people disregarded the warnings and left home this week. Experts fear it will mean even more infections and deaths in the coming weeks at a time when colder weather is forcing people indoors and closer together.

After a quiet summer lulled some into complacency, the virus aggressively returned in October. Illinois marked its 11,000th death on Nov. 18, after recording 1,000 fatalities in just 13 days, then jumped another 1,000 in nine days to 12,000.

That matches the numbers from the pandemic's springtime nadir, when deaths rose from 2,000 to 4000 in 17 days, from April 29 to May 15.

Similarly, the spread of the infection has not slowed. It took the same 17 days for the number of confirmed cases to increase from 500,000 to 700,000. From March 5, which marked the beginning of the period on which new cases have been reported each day, 159 days had elapsed before the 200,000th case was recorded on Aug. 13.

The state doubled that number, hitting 400,000 after 77 days and soared to 600,000 in 19 days.

Testing for the virus is far more available now than in the spring. The 77,000 test results recorded Friday was the first day in nearly three weeks that the total fell below 90,000, a period in which results averaged more than 100,000 a day.

But state health officials have maintained that the increase in testing cannot nearly account for the exponential growth in cases.

The difficult fall has stretched hospitals' capacity and, more importantly, health care staff are running short while there's no borrowing from other states like last spring. The Belleville News-Democrat reported Friday that 87% of staffed hospital beds in the metro east region — the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis — were full.

The number of people hospitalized in Illinois dropped below 6,000 for the first time since Nov. 18, but those who remain are sicker. The 1,215 patients in intensive care units were a 6% increase in those nine days. The most seriously ill — those needing ventilator assistance to breathe — dropped to 698 on Friday, but that was 28% increase from Nov. 18.

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