Thanksgiving holiday travel expected to bring spike in COVID-19 cases, surge in testing demand
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials reported 6,190 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 along with 85 deaths Monday.
The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 726,304, with a total of 12,278 deaths.
Over a 24-hour period, officials said the state processed 66,980 specimens. In total there have been 10,497,998 test specimens tested since the start of the pandemic in Illinois.
The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Nov. 23 - 29 is 12.2%.
As of Sunday night, 5,849 people in Illinois were reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 1,217 patients were in the ICU with COVID-19 and 715 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
Officials in Illinois and across the nation pleaded Americans to limit travel during the Thanksgiving holiday to help prevent the surging coronavirus outbreak from spreading farther and faster.
"We may see a surge upon surge. You know, we don't want to frighten people, but that's just the reality," said Dr. Anthony Facui. "We said that these things would happen as we got into the cold weather and as we began traveling."
On Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend, there were long lines at some testing sites - and an expectation they'll only get busier.
"For those of you who did spend Thanksgiving with others outside your immediate household, I would urge you to get tested later this week," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois. Dept. of Public Health.
Though the number of people in Illinois hospitals has decreased slightly in recent days, fewer than a quarter of the state's ICU beds are available.
After millions took to the skies for Thanksgiving, the governor grounded any hopes for an easing of restrictions.
"No region will be downgraded from our current Tier 3 mitigations for the next few weeks even if they might be on track to meet those metrics," Gov. Pritzker said.
Gov. Pritzker said the state needs the next few weeks to evaluate whether there will be a surge in new cases stemming from all the holiday travel and family gatherings.
"The hope now is that we can fend off the surge in the next few weeks to get to a healthier holiday time in the latter half of December," Gov. Pritzker said.
Before Monday's briefing, Gov. Pritzker said he was on a governors' call with Vice President Michael Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss plans for a rollout of a vaccine, if and when one is approved for emergency use.
The state is still waiting for final guidance from the CDC on how the rollout of the first available vaccines will go, but distribution details will be left up to governors. Gov. Pritzker said the state expects to announce a tiered plan later this week.
Though it's still unclear how many doses Illinois will receive from the federal government, the expected small number of early doses will be prioritized for frontline healthcare workers, staff and residents at long term care facilities, essential workers and people in marginalized communities.
"There are lot of people who are very vulnerable, as you know, who have comorbidities who are in communities that have been ill-affected because of the prevalence of disease just in general, or the failure of healthcare in those communities," Gov. Pritzker said.
Health care workers will be the first priority, but the state is promising equity will be a consideration in who gets it as vaccines becomes more widely available.
Dr. Ezike promised no part of the state will be left out, but urged people to be patient.
"There's going to be like a Phase 1A and 1B and 1C, and that alone will take you know several months to roll out," Dr. Ezike said. "So it's not a matter of December 10, maybe there's vaccines... several days later, great, you know we're all set."
Over the weekend, a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on a United charter jet at O'Hare.
Gov. Pritzker said he was told during a conference call with the White House Coronavirus Task Force Monday afternoon that the vaccine was taken to a Pfizer storage facility in southern Wisconsin, although he said he has not confirmed that himself with Pfizer. The company does have a facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
To accommodate safe testing in winter weather, DuPage County has taken down the tents at their DuPage County Fairgrounds testing site and moved testing indoors.
"People will drive through an enclosed facility," explained Chris Hoff, DuPage County Director of Community Health Resources. "Our goal is to get people in and out as quickly as possible, that this provides an extra level of safety for staff, they're going to be working outside for months to help people get tested. We want to make sure that they have a place to do that."
DuPage County health officials also opened a site in Villa Park to expand testing availability.
Doctors recommend people wait a few days before getting tested, as well.
"Three to five days is really important. If you did go and see people, and were unmasked; we know that this happens. And if that's what happened, please get tested three to five days after you had your encounter," said Dr. Rahul Khare, Innovative Express Care.
But millions of people disregarded the warnings and left home this week. Experts fear it will mean even more infections and deaths in the coming weeks at a time when colder weather is forcing people indoors and closer together.
The deaths reported Monday include:
- Cook County: 1 female 30s, 1 female 50s, 1 male 50s, 5 females 60s, 6 males 60s, 12 females 70s, 11 males 70s, 10 females 80s, 13 males 80s, 3 females 90s, 2 males 90s
- DeKalb County: 1 male 60s
- DuPage County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s
- Kane County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s
- Lake County: 1 male 70s
- LaSalle County: 1 male 50s, 1 male 90s
- Madison County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 90s
- Mason County: 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
- McDonough County: 1 male 60s
- Monroe County: 1 female 80s
- Ogle County: 1 female 90s
- Peoria County: 1 female 50s
- Tazewell County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
- Will County: 2 females 90s
The Associated Press contributed to this report.