Daily COVID-19 cases dip under 1,000, but officials warn it could take 2 weeks to see if protests prompt uptick

Protesters hold signs at the corner of Chicago Ave. and Washington Street in Naperville on Monday | Mark Welsh/Daily Herald, via AP

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday warned that there is a higher risk of being exposed to the virus “anytime people are in crowds,” and especially if “masks are not used universally.”

Another 97 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, and health officials are warning that it could take up to two weeks to see if mass protests in the state will spark any upticks in new cases.

An Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman called it a “moving timeline” of up to 14 days to see if anyone gathered in a crowd has contracted COVID-19. They could also be asymptomatic.

The department is urging all protestors to get tested.

In total, 5,622 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois. The state also reported 982 new positive cases, bringing the tally to 123,830 cases. The virus remains in 101 of 102 counties.

Only downstate Scott County has reported no infections.

There is some good news in Wednesday’s numbers. The 982 new cases marks only the fifth day with fewer than 1,000 new cases reported since April 1. And the state saw a daily positivity rate of just 4%. The state health department and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office are evaluating the positivity rate — or the number of positive cases out the total returned — on a seven-day rolling average. And that number is indeed getting lower and lower.

Wednesday’s death toll, however, is reminiscent of a typical day in May, an especially deadly month, when the average daily death count was just under 100. June opened with the lowest daily tally in two months only to see a spike above the 100 mark on Tuesday.

And the unrest in Chicago and other parts of the state could affect the coronavirus numbers.

The Illinois Public Health Department on Wednesday warned that there is a higher risk of being exposed to the virus “anytime people are in crowds,” and especially if “masks are not used universally.”

“For some individuals, it could be up to 14 days before they show any symptoms, so it can be a moving timeline when trying to determine if a specific event led to additional cases of COVID-19,” public health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. “There are also individuals who may not experience symptoms or only have mild symptoms that they may not recognize as being COVID-19. IDPH encourages people who have recently been in large crowds to seek testing.”

Besides the thousands to who took to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, the entire state is now in a Phase 3 reopening that allows for retail stores, barbershops and salons, as well as outdoor restaurants to re-open to strict safety guidelines and a smaller capacity. Both of those factors are being carefully evaluated in the coming weeks to see their effects.

Eleven state-run COVID-19 testing sites were shut down for two days amid looting and violence. Ten of those sites reopened on Wednesday in Harwood Heights, Aurora, Rockford, East St. Louis, Bloomington, South Holland, Auburn-Gresham, Champaign, Rolling Meadows and Peoria. A Waukegan site will reopen on Thursday but at a different spot. The new site is at 102 W. Water St.

As of Tuesday at midnight, there were 2,329 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals, according to the public health department. Of those, 844 were in intensive care and 508 were on ventilators.

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