CHICAGO (CBS) — The new surge of COVID-19 in Illinois continues unabated, with the state again reaching a new high mark for new cases, as well as setting a new record for coronavirus hospitalizations. Deaths from the virus also reached levels not seen in nearly six months.

The state is now urging all Illinoisans to stay at home as much as possible for the next three weeks, work from home if they can, avoid gatherings, and limit themselves to essential travel only to reduce the spread of the virus.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,657 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Wednesday, beating the old record set just one day earlier, when the state reported 12,623 new cases. Illinois has now reported at least 10,000 new cases for six days in a row, and has set new daily case records five times in the past week.

(Credit: CBS)

IDPH also reported 145 additional COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, the most deaths reported in a single day since May 27, when the state reported 159 deaths.

Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 523,840 coronavirus cases, including 10,434 deaths.

The statewide case positivity rate now stands at 12.4%, nearly triple the rate one month ago.

“These numbers are awful. Positivity rate is going the wrong direction,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at his most recent coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois also have set a new record. As of Tuesday night, 5,042 coronavirus patients were being treated in Illinois hospitals, topping the previous high of 5,037 patients on April 28. Illinois is now averaging 4,389 coronavirus patients in the hospital per day over the past week, up from an average of about 1,500 per day at the start of October. The state peaked at an average of 4,822 hospitalizations per day in early May.

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COVID patients being treated in intensive care units or on ventilators also continue to rise, with 951 patients in the ICU as of Tuesday night, and 404 on ventilators, figures not seen since late May and early June.

In an effort to help get the pandemic under better control in Illinois, public health officials recommended people work with their employers to arrange to work from home if possible for the next three weeks.

“We ask employers to make accommodation for this. Our goal is to reduce transmission as we head into the holidays so businesses and schools can remain open,” IDPH said in a news release.

IDPH also is urging people to stay at home as much as possible for the next three weeks, leaving only for essential activities, such as work that can’t be performed at home, COVID-19 testing, buying groceries, visiting the pharmacy, or seeing a doctor.

Health experts also recommended avoiding public gatherings and limiting travel in and out of communities with a high risk of infection.

“With a rising prevalence of the virus, attending even small gatherings that mix households, or traveling to areas that are experiencing high rates of positivity, is not advised and is potentially dangerous. Please, travel only if necessary,” IDPH said.

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