Illinois COVID-19 Update: IL reports 7,374 cases, 178 coronavirus deaths

New COVID-19 variant may already be circulating in Illinois, Dr. Arwady says

ByEric Horng, Sarah Schulte, and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, December 31, 2020
New COVID-19 variant may be already in Illinois, experts say
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Chicago's top doctor said the new variant of COVID-19 could be circulating in Illinois already.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials reported 7,374 COVID-19 cases and 178 related deaths Wednesday as Chicago's top doctor said the new variant of COVID-19 could be circulating in Illinois already.

The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 955,380, with a total of 16,357 deaths.

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Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 74,573 specimens for a total 13,178,017.

As of Tuesday night, 4,244 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 882 patients were in the ICU and 496 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

RELATED: Illinois coronavirus testing: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, Chicago area

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Dec. 21 - 29 is 8.9%.

The test positivity rate is a metric the state began providing in late October. It is calculated by using the total number of positive tests over the total number of tests. This is the metric being used to by state health officials to make decisions about mitigations.

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Chicago's public health director said it's possible that variant of the virus is already in Illinois and just hasn't been found, the clearest warning yet about the likelihood of infections here.

California becoming the second state to identify a case of the new coronavirus variant that has been spreading rapidly in the United Kingdom.

"I'm not surprised that you have a case, and likely more cases, in California," Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "And we likely will be seeing reports from other states."

So far, there's no sign the variant is any more lethal, but it may be more contagious.

"Because it is more contagious, more people will get infected, more people will get sick, and more people will die just on the basis of the sheer numbers," said Dr. Robert Citronberg, infectious disease medical director at Advocate Aurora Health.

The timing is worrisome as millions traveled for the holidays. So far, the variant has not been found in Illinois, but that doesn't mean it's not here.

"I think it's possible it's here in Illinois. I don't think it's here in Illinois in large numbers. But regardless, it doesn't change any of the guidance or what we need to do," Dr. Arwady said.

That means continued mask wearing, distancing, and hand washing until enough people are vaccinated.

"If we pull together as a nation, we're going to be looking at this thing in the rearview mirror," Dr. Fauci said.

Officials said those three cases in Colorado and California involve people who did not travel internationally, suggesting the variant has been in the U.S. for some time.

"The potential for disastrous complications from this pandemic in the next couple months are very real," Dr. Citronberg warned.

WATCH: Vaccines' impact may not be felt until spring, medical experts say

Nursing home residents and non-hospital healthcare workers are among those getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois now. However, the impact of the vaccinations may not have a positive impact on the daily COVID-19 numbers until spring, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"He doesn't think it would be before the end of the spring, you know, basically four to five months from now, but I have to tell you, our rollout is not going according to the pace we need it to go by. Just in two weeks, we've seen about two million Americans vaccinated," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News Chief Medical Contributor. "If you continue that rate, we're going to be in a lot of trouble. We need to ramp up the pace and get these vaccines to as many people as quickly as possible."

There are a relatively low count of COVID-19 cases in Illinois, but the number of people dying has been high for weeks.

"The success seen in the state of Illinois is absolutely where we should be going as a country, but when you look at the date rates, the clinical care of these most severely ill and critically ill patients with COVID-19 absolutely has gotten better. But it is still killing way too many people every single day, so we have to balance, you know, and not rest on our laurels. But for sure, what has been going in the state of Illinois is what more states in the country need to do, and that's going to involve a combination of factors. The vaccine being one, but those social mitigation, mask wearing also very, very important now more than ever when hospitals are at or near their capacity or breaking point," Dr. Ashton said.

Dr. Ashton also added that while there is limited data in medical literature, it appears that the chronic exposure of chemicals from e-cigarettes or vape can make someone with COIVD-19 more vulnerable. The presenting signs and symptoms of vaping-related lung injuries can mimic that of COVID-19, she added.

"So again, this is common sense here you guys. You don't want to do anything to your lungs that could predispose you or make you more vulnerable for a high-impact respiratory pathogen like SARS-CoV-2," Dr. Ashton said.

See where COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered

The deaths reported Wednesday include:

- Adams County: 1 male 60s

- Boone County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s

- Bureau County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s

- Cook County: 1 female 40s, 1 male 40s, 4 males 50s, 3 females 60s, 7 males 60s, 5 females 70s, 13 males 70s, 10 females 80s, 9 males 80s, 6 females 90s, 6 males 90s, 1 female 100+

- Cumberland County: 1 female 60s

- DeKalb County: 1 male 60s

- DuPage County: 2 males 50s, 3 females 70s, 4 females 80s, 2 males 80s, 2 males 90s

- Effingham County: 1 female 80s

- Ford County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s

- Franklin County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s

- Iroquois County: 1 male 80s

- Jefferson County: 1 female 80s

- Kane County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s

- Kankakee County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 90s

- Knox County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s

- Lake County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 50s, 1 female 60s, 1 male 70s, 3 females 80s, 1 male 80s

- LaSalle County: 1 female 80s, 2 females 90s, 1 male 90s

- Logan County: 1 male 80s

- Macon County: 2 females 70s, 2 males 90s

- Macoupin County: 2 males 70s

- McHenry County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 80s

- McLean County: 1 male 80s

- Morgan County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s

- Moultrie County: 1 male 80s

- Peoria County: 2 females 60s, 1 male 60s, 2 males 80s

- Perry County: 1 female 60s

- Randolph County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 2 females 90s

- Rock Island County: 1 female 50s, 1 female 60s, 2 males 70s, 3 males 80s, 2 females 90s, 1 male 90s

- St. Clair County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 2 females 90s

- Tazewell County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s

- Vermilion County: 1 male 50s

- Wabash County: 1 female 80s

- Warren County: 1 male 80s

- White County: 1 male 80s

- Whiteside County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s

- Will County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 70s, 3 males 70s, 1 female 80s

Winnebago County: 1 female 30s, 1 male 50s, 2 males 60s, 1 female 90s, 1 female 100+

- Woodford County: 1 female 90s