CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials announced 4,342 new cases of COVID-19, along with 69 additional deaths Wednesday.
The number of deaths reported is the highest since June 17, when 87 deaths were announced.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker's COVID-19 update: October 21, 2020
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois now stands at 355,217, with 9,345 deaths, the IDPH reported.
Over a 24-hour period, officials said the state processed 66,791 specimens for a total of 6,950,105. The seven-day positivity rate from October 14 - October 20 is 5.7%. It is the 15th consecutive day the positivity rate has increased.
As of Tuesday night, 2,338 people were hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19, with 502 in the ICU and 194 on ventilators.
The deaths reported Wednesday include:
-Christian County: 1 female 80s
-Clark County: 1 male 90s
-Clay County: 1 male 80s
-Clinton County: 1 male 80s
-Cook County: 2 females 60s, 2 males 60s, 2 males 70s, 3 females 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 2 males 90s
-DuPage County: 1 male 30s, 1 female 40s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s
- Fayette County: 1 male 80s
-Ford County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 90s
- Franklin County: 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
-Fulton County: 1 male 90s
-Hancock County: 1 male 60s
-Jackson County: 1 male 70s
-Kane County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 80s
-Kendall County: 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
-Knox County: 1 female 50s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 90s
- Lake County: 1 female 70s
-Macon County:1 female 90s
-Madison County: 1 male 80s
-Marion County: 2 males 70s, 1 male 80s
-McDonough County: 1 female 80s
-Peoria County: 1 female 40s, 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s
-Richland County: 1 male 80s
-Saline County: 2 females 80s
-Sangamon County: 1 male 80s
-Shelby County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 70s
- St. Clair County: 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
- Vermilion County: 1 female 70s
-Whiteside County: 2 male 80s, 1 female 90s
-Will County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 80s
-Williamson County: 1 female 90s
-Winnebago County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 female 100+
- Woodford County: 2 females 90s, 1 male 90s
Cook County morgue prepared with additional storage space
Two of the deaths in DuPage County were of people who were relatively young, a man in his 30s and a woman in her 40s. The rise in deaths is being seen as a turning point.
At the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, there is cause for concern. Last week saw 58 deaths from COVID-19 countywide - double the number in early-to-mid-September and the highest figure since mid-July.
"Our hope is that these numbers start to subside again, but only time will tell," said Natalia Derevyanny, spokesperson for the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
If things turn tragically worse, officials said they're ready. A large refrigerated, offsite warehouse secured by the county last spring remains available if needed.
"We realized that this pandemic wasn't going to go away just because the, just because summer hit. And unfortunately, that is the case," Derevyanny said.
The rise in deaths comes as all 11 Illinois regions top 7% test positivity.
"The more cases, eventually you will get to more deaths, and so the spike in cases that we've been seeing over the last six weeks, yes, unfortunately it is turning into additional mortality," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker outlines vaccine distribution plan
A month after the FDA unveiled its plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine to the population free of charge once one is available, Gov. JB Pritzker released his own plan for Illinois on Wednesday.
"We are independently going to be looking at and ensuring that whatever it is that we distribute in the state will be safe," Gov. Pritzker said.
The governor decision to assemble an independent team of experts to ensure the eventual vaccine's safety is in line with what New York and California have announced in recent days. And while politics may be involved in that decision, infectious disease experts said the process will help to ensure people want to get vaccinated.
"It is really important because things have come through very quickly to make sure that it is evaluated," said Dr. Susan Bleasdale, UI Health medical director for infection prevention. "You have to look at this and decide how does this apply to my patient population? That has to be done at the state level."
The governor's vaccination plan is one that admittedly is low on specifics. There is still much that is not known, such as which company's vaccine or vaccines will be approved first, how many doses it will require, and how will it be stored.
But one thing was made clear: it will not be available to the population at large for at least several months after rollout.
"There will be limited doses that are going to be available when we get the first batch and then production will ramp up after that, but for that initial group it will absolutely be health care workers will be first," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker COVID-19 update on October 20, 2020
Gov. Pritzker resumed his daily briefings at the Thompson Center Tuesday afternoon, where he announced suburban Kane, DuPage, Will and Kankakee counties will return to "heightened resurgence mitigations" on Friday.
The rollback was triggered when the four counties that make up Regions 7 and 8 reported rolling test positivity rates of higher than 8% for the third day in a row, Pritzker said. The positivity rate is an alarming 9% in Region 8 (Kane and DuPage) and 8.6 percent in Region 7 (Kankakee and Will).
Starting Friday, there will be no indoor service at bars or restaurants and all bars, restaurants and casinos must close by 11 p.m. Additionally, all gatherings will be limited to 25 people or 25% capacity, whichever is lesser. The restrictions will remain in place for at least the next 14 days, Pritzker said.
The move targeting bars and restaurants comes a day after Chicago officials said those businesses were not behind this latest surge of cases in the city. Instead, health officials in the city pointed the finger at home gatherings. But Gov. Pritzker insisted the move isn't arbitrary.
"We didn't pick it just because it sounds good or that we want to do it," Gov. Pritzker said. "It's because all the studies that have been done about bars and restaurants show that these are significant spreading locations."
"We're not going to not have people go to school. We're letting local health departments and school administrators decide what's appropriate for themselves with regards to school. And with regards to workplace, there are people who cannot work from home, who have to go to work, so the next thing we can actually act on is the bars and restaurants," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
In Will County, this will be the third time indoor bar and restaurant service has been halted. Some business owners fear it will be their last. For Thayer Bros. Deli & Grill in Joliet, it's the latest setback in a year of struggle.
"I don't know if this is just another nail in the coffin. I see where places are closing left and right," owner Rick Thayer said. "I definitely feel like they're coming down heavy handed on us."
But will these mitigations - which were already imposed on Will and Kankakee counties back in late August - be effective? Especially as health officials now say that it is home gatherings that are driving this new surge?
"Why are we doing that when it's not really helping?" asked State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Frankfort. "We need to be more targeted. We know more now that we knew in March. Why are we staying with the same measures when we could have more sophisticated, refined, targeted successful measures?"
"To think that maybe there's a chance we won't survive the second round is crushing to me," said Kasey Hoag, owner of the Six + Cypress Boutique in Batavia.
The same restrictions are already in place in Region 1, which covers northwestern Illinois. Region 5, which covers southern Illinois, will start imposing new COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday.
The new restrictions will be re-evaluated two weeks from now depending on how the positivity rates for DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee respond.