CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. JB Pritzker again urged people to stay at home as much as possible over the next few weeks, as public health officials continue to monitor for the potential of a new surge of COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The governor’s latest warning came as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,542 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois on Tuesday, as well as 125 additional deaths.
It was the highest daily case total in Illinois in 12 days, although the Illinois Department of Public Health also reported the largest testing total in 11 days, so the state saw only a slight uptick in its positivity rate.
While the new cases on Tuesday were more than double the 6,190 new cases reported on Monday, Illinois also saw a nearly 70% increase in testing in the past day, with 116,081 tests reported in the past 24 hours, compared to 66,980 tests in the previous day.
“We know that we aren’t going to see the bulk of the impact from Thanksgiving in our data quite yet, just as it took time to see the impact of the 4th of July and Labor Day celebrations in the data,” Pritzker said Tuesday afternoon at his daily coronavirus briefing.
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Pritzker said people who did travel for Thanksgiving, or hosted a gathering of people from outside their own household should monitor themselves for symptoms over the next several days, get tested within 5 to 7 days afterward, and avoid close contact with others for the next couple weeks.
The governor said if you do have symptoms of the virus – such fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea – you should get tested immediately.
No matter how you spent the holiday weekend, Pritzker said you should stay at home as much as possible the next few weeks to limit further spread of the virus ahead of the December holidays.
“Assume you were exposed, and assume more of your co-workers or friends were exposed than ever before, and act like it with social distancing, wearing your mask whenever you’re in public, whenever you’re with other people. It’s the safest thing you can do for the people that you love and for the healthcare workers who risk their lives to help you when you need them,” he said.
Pritzker said, as expected, demand for COVID-19 tests surged before Thanksgiving Day, and then dropped off significantly afterward.
“As you could imagine, that leads to more uncertainty in the trends that we’re seeing in this in-between period,” he said.
Illinois is averaging 9,251 new cases per day over the past week, down from an average of 10,891 daily cases the previous week, but more than four times higher than the 2,052 cases per day during the first seven days of October.
However, testing also is down significantly over the past week, likely due in part to the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Illinois averaged 89,111 tests per day over the past seven days, compared to 101,832 tests per day during the prior week.
The seven-day average case positivity rate rose slightly from 10.2% on Monday to 10.4% on Tuesday. That’s down from the November peak of 13.2% on Nov. 13, but still nearly triple the 3.5% rate at the start of October.
Pritzker said it’s unclear if the slight uptick in positivity rate is from people exposed to the virus two weeks ago, from new infections over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, or simply a fluctuation in testing results.
“What I am certain of is that this virus is circulating widely in every county across the state of Illinois, and if you are exposed to the virus and become infected, you will be infectious before you are aware you have the disease,” he said. “That means if you didn’t socially distance at Thanksgiving, and if you spent time with people who are not in your own family bubble, you may feel fine right now, but you could nevertheless be passing COVID-19 on to others without knowing it.”
Tuesday was also the 10th time Illinois has reported more than 100 deaths from the virus since the start of November, after not reporting that many deaths on any single day between July and October.
Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 738,846 coronavirus cases, including 12,403 deaths.
As of Monday night, 5,835 coronavirus patients were being treated in Illinois hospitals, including 1,195 people in intensive care, an 721 on ventilators.
While hospitalizations seem to have started trending downward since peaking at 6,175 on Nov. 20, there are still far more COVID-19 patients in the hospital at the start of December than at the start of October.
Illinois is averaging 5,902 coronavirus hospitalizations per day over the last week, nearly four times the average of about 1,500 per day at the start of October. During the first wave of the pandemic, the state peaked at an average of 4,822 hospitalizations per day in early May.