The state reported 1,471 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and 19 new deaths as Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned college students to curtail parties after a localized surge in cases related to Southern Illinois University.
Total COVID-19 cases statewide come to 184,712, and fatalities are 7,545, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The last seven days have seen 1,569 new daily cases on average, compared to 1,433 daily from July 22 to July 28.
The percentage of positive tests for the virus ticked down from 4% Monday to 3.9% Tuesday based on a seven-day average.
The largest age group in Illinois with COVID-19 is 20-somethings, with 18.4% of infections, IDPH data show, raising difficult issues on college campuses where students are returning to in-person learning.
During an event Tuesday at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Pritkzer said “the COVID-19 pandemic, which once seemed tame in Carbondale and throughout the region, is now surging. It’s worse than in Chicago, and if we don’t see some change, the virus will cause some businesses to close and increase the percentage of people to get sick, and some will even die.”
Across Illinois, hospitalizations for the virus numbered 1,496 as of Monday night, the highest since June 26, when 1,498 were counted.
The current seven-day average for patients in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 is 1,426, lower than the daily average from July 21 to July 27 of 1,433.
The state reported 42,598 virus tests Tuesday and Pritzker said he hopes to collaborate with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is developing a saliva test to detect COVID-19 that’s noninvasive and produces results within 24 hours. The goal is to test up to 10,000 students a day when classes resume at U of I Aug. 24.
“We’re talking to the University of Illinois about how we might provide that across the state to other locations,” Pritzker said.
“We need all residents to take this seriously and to protect themselves, no matter how young and invincible you think you are.”
Regarding universities, colleges and schools, “there is not a single one of these institutions that should be opening without making sure that you are enforcing a mask mandate,” Pritzker said.
In Jackson County, where SIU is located, one cause of cases spiking has been students arriving early on campus to participate in athletics or orientation and hold parties, Pritzker said.
“Large, unmasked gatherings are a no-go,” he said.
Jackson County has had 658 cases and 19 deaths since March.
Although the death rate from the virus for Illinoisans in their 20s is less than 1%, the disease can pose serious complications and many people are asymptomatic carriers who put others at grave risk.
At Edward Hospital in Naperville, experts are noticing a trend among some elderly patients with COVID-19 who were infected by younger people, physician Jonathan Pinsky said.
“They tell us they were in contact with someone in a younger age group who often does engage in social gatherings” and is in the same household, said Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention.