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COVID-19 In Illinois: State Reports Record 238 New Coronavirus Deaths; 'We've Already Lost Too Many Lives'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Public health officials reported 9,757 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois on Wednesday, as well as 238 additional deaths, the most virus fatalities the state has reported in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

It's the first time the Illinois Department of Public  Health has reported more than 200 coronavirus deaths in a single day, and a 25% increase over the previous record of 191 deaths reported on May 13, during the first wave of the pandemic.

"While it's likely that some of this increase can be attributed to a data lag from the holiday weekend, we also know that higher case numbers and higher numbers of hospitalizations do lead to, tragically, even more lives lost; and we've surpassed the spring records by the thousands in recent weeks," Gov. JB Pritzker said at his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon. "To those 238 sets of families, friends, and loved ones, as well as the thousands more who preceded them, I offer my sincerest and my deepest condolences. This pandemic stole someone from your lives too soon. May their memories be for a blessing."

Meantime, new cases dropped from Tuesday, when IDPH reported 12,542 new cases, a 22% decline, although coronavirus testing also dipped, with 85,507 tests in the past 24 hours, a 26% decline from the 116,081 tests reported on Tuesday.

Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 748,603 cases of COVID-19, including 12,639 deaths.

The statewide seven-day average case positivity rate in Illinois is now at 10.6%, a slight uptick from Tuesday's rate of 10.4%. The state's case positivity rate climbed as high as 13.2% during the second wave of the pandemic, which started in early October. The case positivity rate was at only 3.5% on Oct. 1.

As of Tuesday night, 5,764 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Illinois, including 1,190 patients in intensive care and 714 patients on ventilators.

While hospitalizations seem to have started trending downward since peaking at 6,175 on Nov. 20, there are still far more COVID-19 patients in the hospital at the start of December than at the start of October.

Illinois is averaging 5,849 coronavirus hospitalizations per day over the last week, nearly four times the average of about 1,500 per day at the start of October. During the first wave of the pandemic, the state peaked at an average of 4,822 hospitalizations per day in early May.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the good news is "we do know that you have a much better chance of surviving COVID-19 in the hospital now, as opposed to wave one."

Ezike also said the length of hospital stays for COVID patients has gone down during the second wave of the pandemic. During the first wave in the spring, the average length of stay for people hospitalized from coronavirus was 9-11 days, according to Ezike. During the second surge, the average hospital stay is down to 7-9 days.

While there are still some people who have required hospitalization for several weeks or months, Ezike said even among the long-term care population, treatment times have shrunk during the second surge.

Ezike said, while the first vaccine for COVID-19 could be distributed to healthcare workers and nursing homes as soon as the next couple weeks, she noted likely will be several more months, if not longer, before vaccines are widely available to the general public and the virus can possibly be eradicated.

"Until then, we have to continue to practice our three Ws each and every day; especially throughout the upcoming holidays. Please continue to wear your masks, wash your hands, and watch your distance. These mitigation efforts do work," she said. "I ask every Illinoisan to do their part in getting through this pandemic. We've already lost too many lives. Yes, we've lost our normalcy, but we shouldn't lose hope. We'll work together, and we will prevent the spread of this virus."

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