WIRE: COVID-19 update: Hospitalizations tick upward as positivity rate remains low

The graph shows the number of COVID-19 tests completed each day (blue), next to the number of positive cases those tests yield (red), according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Increasing new cases have Illinois ‘trending poorly,’ according to one report

SPRINGFIELD – The state’s hospital bed usage by COVID-19 patients ticked slightly upward Tuesday as the Illinois Department of Public Health announced another 725 confirmed cases and 23 COVID-19-related deaths.

There were 31,069 test results reported over the previous 24 hours, making for a one-day positivity rate of 2.3 percent and bringing the seven-day rolling rate to 2.6 percent – one-tenth of a percent lower than the day before.

The number of those hospitalized for COVID-19 as reported by IDPH – a number that often fluctuated by the hundreds daily at the height of the pandemic – has been on a relative downward trend for more than one month. The number of hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients as of 11:59 p.m. Monday remained lower than at any point prior to this week at 1,560, but the number represents an increase of 59 from the day prior and an increase of 96 from its previous low of 1,464 on Saturday.

Intensive care bed usage by COVID-19 patients ticked back up to 401 at the end of Monday after three days below 400. That number also remains lower than at any point prior to this week.

Ventilator use by COVID-19 patients dropped to its lowest point since the state began daily reporting of the figure, with 185 in use at the end of Monday – a decrease of two from the day prior.

Since the pandemic began, the state has recorded 143,185 confirmed cases of the virus, including 6,923 deaths.

There have been more than 1.6 million people tested in Illinois, and the average number tested between June 24 and 30 was 29,065 daily.

According to a new study conducted by the Harvard Global Health Institute for NPR, that puts Illinois on an adequate path to mitigating the spread of the virus, but short of the amount of testing needed to suppress the spread of the virus. Suppression would require 68,211 tests per day, according to the study, and would help decrease the number of new cases further than the current leveling off.

Also according to NPR reporting, the main difference between mitigation and suppression “is that suppression calls for much more aggressive and consistent testing of high-risk individuals to allow communities to clamp down on emerging case clusters faster.”

Suppression would also require much wider contact tracing efforts, and testing could be targeted at high-risk places such as nursing homes, meat processing plants and other facilities requiring close quarters, according to the study.

That study also showed that Illinois was one of just 14 states on a mitigation path, while only three states – Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska – are doing enough testing to suppress the virus’ spread.

According to another report at covidexitstrategy.org – a collaboration of public health and crisis experts – Illinois has moved from a “trending better” category as recently as June 24 into “trending poorly” based on several metrics, including measures laid out in the White House’s reopening plan.

The main drivers of the change in designation are that Illinois is seeing 60 new cases per million per day, and the state’s 14-day trend of new COVID-19 cases is on an increasing trajectory by 16 percent after there were fewer than 700 cases reported each day from June 10-23.

In the past seven days, the state has reported fewer than 700 cases only once, and has averaged 766 daily.

Illinois PIRG, a left-leaning nonprofit consumer advocacy group, issued a news release citing the report and calling on the state to “maintain all current restrictions related to COVID-19, and consider additional measures to improve containment.”

“Illinois has made great strides in containing the spread of COVID-19 because Gov. (JB) Pritzker and local leaders have listened to public health experts,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG director and a coordinator of Open Safe Illinois, a coalition of 25 health, labor, aging, and public interest organizations. “The ‘trending poorly’ ranking is a reminder that every stage of reopening brings increased risk, especially for essential workers, those in long-term care facilities and Black and Latinx communities, and that we must continue to act to control the spread of COVID-19."

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