CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials announced 4,015 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, along with 53 additional deaths.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois now stands at 331,620 with 9,127 deaths, the IDPH reported.
The number of new cases reported Thursday is the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. On September 4, 5,358 new cases were reported, which came from multiple days due to a testing backlog.
As of Thursday, IDPH is now including the results of antigen testing alongside molecular testing.
The single-day death toll from Thursday is the highest since 63 were reported on June 24.
Cases are rising all over the state, with several Chicago-area counties seeing surges. In the last 10 days Will County's test positivity rate rose more than a point and a half; in McHenry County it rose two points, and in Kane County it rose nearly three.
"We are rapidly heading toward another peak of infections. The question that we have to answer now is how high is that peak going to be, how long will it take for us to get over it, and how bad will it be for our more vulnerable people?" said Dr. Emily Landon, University of Chicago Medicine.
"We are seeing older patients. The average age, the median age of our census right now is 68," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, director of infection control for Edward Hospital.
As of Wednesday night, 1,932 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 388 patients in the ICU and 147 on ventilators.
"Some of the increases we had in Illinois over the summer weren't associated with any increase in hospitalizations. We are seeing more patients in the hospital this year, now," Landon said.
Concerns are heightened now that the holidays are approaching, as the recent surge has been driven by home gatherings and households expanding their so-called bubble.
"A lot of people are excited about the holidays and seeing family members, but when they do that, that's going to increase the risk of getting infections," said Pinksy.
Researchers say the virus thrives in cooler, drier conditions, which is one reason why we're seeing this rise in cases now in mid-October after temperatures began falling last month.
Over a 24-hour period, officials said the state processed 67,086 specimens for a total of 6,531,009. The seven-day positivity rate from Oct. 9 to 15 is 4.9%.
After holding steady for a few weeks, the positivity test rate for COVID-19 infections in Illinois is once again on the rise. It was 3.3% on Oct. 5, 3.4% on Oct. 5-6, 3.5% on Oct. 7, 3.7% on Oct. 8,, 3.8% Friday, 4% Saturday, 4.2% on Sunday, 4.3% on Monday, 4.5% on Tuesday, and 4.6% on Wednesday.
The deaths reported Thursday include:
-Adams County: 1 female 80s
-Bureau County: 1 male 70s
-Carroll County: 1 female 70s
-Champaign County: 1 female 60s
-Christian County: 1 female 60s
-Clark County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
-Clay County: 1 male 70s, 2 females 80
-Cook County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 3 males 70s, 3 females 80s, 1 male 80s, 2 males 90s
-DuPage County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
-Fayette County: 1 male 80s
-Jackson County: 1 female 70s
-Jefferson County: 1 female 90s
- Kane County: 2 males 80s
-Kendall County: 1 male 60s
-Knox County: 1 male 20s
-Lawrence County: 1 male 80s
-Marion County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
-McLean County: 1 male 60s
-Moultrie County: 1 male 70s
-Peoria County: 1 female 90s
-Richland County: 1 female 60s
-Rock Island County: 1 female 70s
-Saline County: 1 female 70s
-Shelby County: 1 male 70s
-St. Clair County: 1 female 80s
-Tazewell County: 1 female 70s
-Wabash County: 1 female 60s
-Wayne County: 1 male 70s
-Will County: 1 male 50s, 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
-Winnebago County: 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
Some suburban high school students returned to the classroom Thursday.
Township High School District 214 started its hybrid learning schedule. That includes a combination of in-person and remote instruction.
District 214 has more than 12,000 students at Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove and Hersey high schools.
On Wednesday, IDPH has provided recommendations for how to celebrate safely with family and friends over the upcoming holidays.
COVID-19 spikes have been seen from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July and last month at Labor Day.
"COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health director. "While the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually, we know, for many, the holidays are all about family and friends, so we want to provide some tips on how to celebrate safer."
Recommendations include wearing face coverings, particularly when traveling, limiting the number of guests and having activities outside if possible.
Homeowners have been clamoring for patio heaters for weeks, and at Gordon's Ace Hardware in Bridgeport sales are at least 10 times what they are in a normal season.
"If we had them in stock, we could sell hundreds right now without a problem. We're getting calls every day. Do you have them in stock? Both for the table top and for the tall, the tall deck heaters," said Jeremy Melnick, co-owner.
It's the same with propane tanks and firewood, and gas fire pits are also selling fast.
"People want to try to extend the season the best they can, so they're looking for anything that will provide any heat as the weather has gotten cold," he said.
If you can't hold your holidays outdoors, open windows to aid in ventilation. Also, it is recommended to limit activities in the two weeks prior to gatherings.
Let people know ahead of time that we're going to be using masks, bring your masks, because if you're not eating or drinking, just to keep everybody safe, that's the best way to go forward," Ezike said. "We have too many personal celebrations that have ended in tragedy, where people have gotten sick."
For seating arrangements, officials say to keep members of the same household together and putting space between each family.
Visit www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/holiday-season-safety-tips for the full list of safety tips.