COVID-19 is once again one of the leading causes of death in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker said in his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday. He and Illinois' public health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, called out those who continue to deny the seriousness of the disease.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker calls out COVID-19 deniers
"COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death in Illinois behind heart disease and cancer," Gov. Pritzker said. "Not only that, between March and October, COVID-19 took more lives than the next two highest causes, strokes and accidents, combined."
The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 606,771, with a total of 11,014 deaths. Wednesday is the first day since November 5 that fewer than 10,000 new cases were reported.
While there was a significantly lower number of new cases reported Wednesday, there was also much more sobering news. One hundred and forty new deaths were reported Wednesday, with 80 from Cook County alone. Eleven of them are under the age of 60.
The actual mortality rate of COVID-19 has been significantly reduced since the start of the pandemic. Doctors attribute this to new treatments, and infection spikes that tended to target younger populations. But it is not the percentage that doctors say we should look at, but the overall number of people lost - and that is a number that has been rising as hospitals once again become overburdened, finding it more difficult to provide the same level of care.
WATCH: COVID-19 deaths in Illinois top 11,000
"About 1 in 200 people die from COVID-19," said Dr. Robert Citronberg with Advocate Aurora Health. "That number doesn't seem like a lot, but when you multiply that by the sheer numbers of the millions and millions of people who are infected, then you see sky-high numbers of deaths, even with a low mortality rate."
While a higher number of people are dying in Chicago and Cook County in general, Gov. Pritzker said the rural areas of the state that are being hit the hardest currently, with twice the number of people per capita being lost to COVID-related illness.
With hospital capacity shrinking and staff being pushed to their limits, one area hospital CEO is making an appeal to his community.
At Morris Hospital, half of current admissions are for COVID-19 and at one point this week, they were down to three open beds.
"It's a horrible thing to have to do, to have to notify a patient that we're going to have to postpone their elective surgery, but of course we can't start a surgery when we don't have a bed to put somebody in," said Mark Steadham, president and CEO at Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers.
The hospital staff are also making sacrifices.
"Asking people to work on their days off and come in and just sometimes work a half a shift for us," Steadham said.
"That is part of the reason that we had to take the steps that we've taken, because if we've exceeded all of our projections by more than six weeks, the numbers for the end of the year would just be untenable," Dr. Ezike said.
Officials lamented how stories of healthcare workers being showered with gratitude seem to have disappeared.
"Doctors and nurses tell me that some people who come into emergency rooms with COVID, sometimes struggling to breathe, are screaming at hospital workers about how the disease is a political hoax or some sort of hospital profit scheme," Gov. Pritzker said.
Morris Hospital's CEO is pleading with the public to take the virus seriously.
"It's not about anything the hospital can do to bring those numbers down," Steadham said. "It's about the support of our communities."
In today's numbers, there was - what the governor called - a reason for a "glimmer of optimism." The state's test positivity rate fell slightly for a third day in a row.
Over a 24-hour period, officials said the state processed 103,569 tests. In total there have been 9,359,227 specimens tested since the start of the pandemic in Illinois.
The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Nov. 11-17, is 14.2%.
As of Tuesday night, 5,953 people in Illinois were reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 1,146 patients were in the ICU with COVID-19 and 547 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
RELATED: Where to find COVID-19 testing in Chicago area
The new Tier 3 restrictions aim to limit gatherings and encourage residents to stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus.
"Tier 3 boils down to this: if you don't need to do it, don't," Pritzker said.
Will County sees surge in COVID-19 cases
The entire state enters Tier 3 mitigation Friday at 12:01 a.m.
The new Tier 3 restrictions close gaming and casinos, theaters, banquet halls and event spaces, cultural institutions like museums, prohibit indoor fitness classes and group sporting activities, and call on all workplaces to have as many employees work from home as possible.
Click here to read the complete set of Tier 3 Mitigations for all businesses in Illinois.
"This is not a stay-at-home order, but the best way for us to avoid a stay at home order is to stay home," Pritzker said.
"I urge people to turn their frustration and their anger into something positive instead of trying to buck the mitigations can we all just follow them, acknowledging that these are what are needed to get back to some sense of normal," said IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Bars and restaurants remain limited to outdoor service, pickup and delivery only. Grocery stores can only operate at 50% capacity, gyms can only be open at 25% capacity with reservations, hotels are limited to registered guests, salons and other personal care services can only operate at 25% capacity, pharmacies at 50% capacity, non-essential retail at 25% capacity, and 10 person gathering limits are in place for outdoor sports and recreation.
And while decisions about schools will still be made locally the state is suspending indoor group sports, including for IHSA.
"Right now, this virus has backed us into a corner, and we are left making insanely difficult and weighty decisions," Ezike said.
RELATED: Illinois COVID-19 orders: A legal look at Gov. Pritzker's 10th disaster declaration
Already struggling retailers will be limited to 25% capacity, including big box stores with a grocery section. Traditional grocers are allowed to continue operating at 50% capacity.
"We think the governor's announcement strikes the right balance amidst a very difficult situation," said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. "Obviously, we would hope that everyone was open and doing business as normal, but that's just not the situation we find ourselves in."
People are strongly encouraged not to gather with people outside their households and to skip traditional Thanksgiving celebrations and not celebrate with anyone other than those inside their current household.
"The more we can avoid gatherings, especially indoors with people that we don't already live with, the more likely we are to be able to celebrate the December holidays with less risk to our loved ones and ourselves," Pritzker said.
There is no set time frame for how long the restrictions will last; that will depend on the infection rate. But the rules can be lifted on a regional basis.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker discusses concerning trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations
The number of available hospital beds in the state continues to shrink across the table, health officials said.
The governor said if the numbers don't start to bend, a statewide stay-at-home order is the next step.
The deaths reported Wednesday include:
- Adams County: 1 male 90s
- Bureau County: 1 female 90s
- Champaign County: 1 female 100+
- Clinton County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
- Coles County: 1 male 90s
- Cook County: 2 males 30s, 1 female 40s, 2 males 40s, 2 females 50s, 4 males 50s, 7 females 60s, 13 males 60s, 10 females 70s, 9 males 70s, 6 females 80s, 13 males 80s, 6 females 90s, 4 males 90s, 1 male 100+
- DeWitt County: 1 female 90s
- DuPage County: 1 female 60s, 2 males 60s, 1 male 70s, 2 males 80s, 2 males 90s
- Effingham County: 1 male 90s
- Fayette County: 1 male 80s
- Franklin County: 1 male 90s
- Greene County: 1 male 90s
- Jackson County: 1 male 70s
- Kendall County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 90s
- Knox County: 1 female 90s
- Lake County: 1 male 90s
- LaSalle County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 3 males 80s, 1 female 90s
- Livingston County: 1 male 60s
- Logan County: 1 male 80s
- Macon County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 90s
- McDonough County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 90s
- McHenry County: 1 male 70s, 2 females 90s
- Ogle County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 90s
- Peoria County: 2 females 80s
- Sangamon County: 1 male 80s
- St. Clair County: 1 female 70s
- Stephenson County: 1 female 80s
- Tazewell County: 1 male 90s
- Vermilion County: 1 male 70s
- Warren County: 1 female 80s
- Wayne County: 1 male 90s
- Whiteside County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 90s
- Will County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
- Williamson County: 1 male 70s
- Winnebago County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s
WATCH: Testing demand grows, and testing supplies run out
Free COVID-19 testing will be available at the following mobile sites, regardless of symptoms, insurance or immigration status:
Additionally, the Will County Health Department's Community Health Center has COVID-19 testing Tuesday and Thursday this week at the Lewis University by the fieldhouse at 1 University Pkwy in Romeoville from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.