CHICAGO (CBS) — With new coronavirus restrictions in place statewide on Friday, and hospitalizations from the virus continuing to break records, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Friday “there are absolutely zero easy answers” for reversing the trends and getting the virus under control until an effective vaccine is widely available.
“There’s no simple equation that says if you do X, then Y gets to happen. There’s still many unknowns, there are many variables, and so there’s no solution that’s 100% effective, especially when it depends on every other member of the community to buy into the plan,” she said.
All of Illinois moved into Tier 3 virus mitigations on Friday, including tighter capacity limits on most retailers; a requirement to close casinos, museums, and theaters; an end to group classes at gyms and fitness centers; and stricter limits on public gatherings.
Ezike and Gov. JB Pritzker also urged people to stay at home as much as possible, and to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday only with people in their own household, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with patients.
“If we all avoid the trips outside the house that we don’t need to take right now, we can fight this recent surge, and turn things around for our healthcare workers and hospital systems, who are facing an increasingly dangerous situation across the state, and we can potentially pull back on these mitigations for everyone before the December holidays,” Pritzker said.
State officials’ latest pleas for people to stay at home came as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 13,012 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with 126 additional deaths. The state has reported more than 10,000 new cases per day 14 times in the past 15 days, but new cases do appear to be trending slightly downward over the past week.
The statewide seven-day average case positivity rate now stands at 11.5%, down slightly from 12% one day earlier. It’s the fourth time in the past week the rate has had a day-to-day drop in that metric, and the rate is now the lowest it’s been since Nov. 9, but Pritzker has cautioned it’s too early to tell if the recent declines in positivity rates are a meaningful trend or simply an anomaly. The state’s average positivity rate is still more than triple the rate at the start of October, when the case positivity rate was 3.5%.
Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 634,395 virus cases, including 11,304 deaths.
Illinois also set a new record for testing on Friday, with 116,024 new tests reported in the past 24 hours, for a total of 9,588,698 since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations from the virus also continue to surge, reaching another record high with 6,111 COVID patients being treated in Illinois hospitals as of Thursday night, including 1,196 patients in intensive care, and 604 on ventilators. The state’s hospitalization numbers have risen every day for nearly four weeks, and have been above 5,000 for ten days in a row, after never reaching that level during the first wave of the pandemic.
Ezike said hospitalizations from the virus have more than doubled in little more than three weeks, warning if that trend continues, hospitals could be overwhelmed in another three weeks, especially in rural and exurban areas with lower capacities.
Pritzker also noted that, although senior citizens and people with certain pre-existing medical conditions are at greater risk of more severe illness from the virus, even young and healthy people can die if they catch COVID-19.
The governor pointed to the example of Dani Rubin Kater, a 30-year-old woman who died of COVID complications on Nov. 3, little more than a week after first experiencing symptoms of the virus.
Dani’s parents and husband reached out to Pritzker to share her story at the governor’s daily briefing.
Her father, Bob Rubin, said Dani had been married to her husband for more than six years, and was living in their “dream house” in Bloomington when she got sick.
“Their careers were off to a great start. Everything was going according to the plan that they had originally mapped out, and then in late October COVID struck,” he said.
Dani’s husband, Tim Kater, said she lost her sense of taste and smell on Oct. 27, and the couple immediately quarantined themselves. Dani got a test the next morning, and a positive result came back the following Saturday, when she also started having slight difficulty breathing.
“We just thought it was part of being sick, and that we just needed to get through it, and it wasn’t until we bought a pulse oximeter on Monday morning that we realized just how bad it was. Her oxygen levels were really low, and we knew we needed to get to the hospital,” Tim said.
Although Dani responded to the initial treatment at the hospital, and her oxygen levels started going up, later that same night they dropped again, and she was placed on a ventilator, but she never recovered and died the next day, her family said.
“You can only understand the devastation that our family has had through this. We lost our only daughter. Tim lost the love of his life,” said Dani’s mother, Tina Rubin. “These aren’t just numbers, they’re not just statistics. These are real people with real lives and real futures that have been stolen by this virus.”
Pritzker said Dani’s family has set up a fund to provide COVID care kits to people who are self-isolating after testing positive for the virus. Donations to the Dani Rubin Kater Memorial Fund for COVID Care will go toward care kits that include masks, a pulse oximeter, a digital oral thermometer, a pill organizer, a CDC-approved surface cleaner, a symptom log, and educational and reference materials.
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