SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - New cases of coronavirus on Monday fell to 6,190, the lowest single-day total in more than a month, but deaths continued at a rapid pace and state officials fear the dip in infections is the calm before a COVID-19 storm.
The drop in confirmed cases of the virus was the third in three days, although Monday’s 85 deaths sustained a late fall trend. Deaths fell below 50 on just eight days in November.
But there’s reason to worry. Millions of Americans traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday, crossing state lines and joining family and friends for indoor celebrations, a virtual guarantee of another surge in infections. Therefore, Illinois restrictions on social interaction, so-called Tier 3 mitigations, will remain in place for at least the next few weeks, Gov. J.B. said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago.
“We are still very much in a precarious place ...,” Pritzker said. “I say this as we come off of a Thanksgiving holiday when many people may have dropped their guard and gathered with people from outside of their own households. The hope now is that we can fend off the surge in the next few weeks to get to a healthier holiday time in the latter half of December.”
November, which saw new cases surge and top out at over 15,000 on Nov. 13, marked a period as ghastly as April or May, when the virus first crawled through the state. Total cases rose 77% to 726,304. Deaths stood at 12,278, 26% higher than at the beginning of the month.
Hospitals are hustling to care for the sick. There were 5,849 inpatients on Monday, down from a high of 6,175 nine days ago. But the number of the more seriously ill is growing in terms of its proportion to patients overall. There were 1,217 intensive care patients and 715 on ventilators.
Pritzker said the Tier 3 mitigations, which ban indoor food service, limit capacity in retail stores and cap gatherings at 10 or fewer, are about the toughest shy of a stay-at-home order, like that imposed in Los Angeles County. But such an order is not under consideration in Illinois, he said.
The suffering comes in front of a backdrop of hope. Two drugmakers, Pfizer and Moderna, are close to getting approval for vaccines to combat the virus. But officials continue to caution that prevention and immunity are months away and no one should stop wearing face coverings, staying 6 feet apart from others or frequently washing their hands.
“There is hope on the horizon. But while we await a safe and effective vaccine, it’s important to remember that we need to continue to be vigilant ...,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state public health director. “And once the vaccine does roll out ... we will still need to stay on our game until the vaccine is widely available and in people’s arms.”
Meanwhile, the health crisis has been unrelenting on the economy. Businesses, particularly restaurants and bars, with prohibitions on indoor service, have been buffeted. A Springfield restaurant has announced its permanent closure. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported that Fox Run owners blamed government’s “overreach of power” for its demise.
Fox Run was one of four restaurants under a circuit court’s restraining order for continuing indoor dining. The Sangamon County Health Department later reached an agreement with the other three eateries, which restored permits for take-out service. Fox Run was not part of the settlement but withdrew its request for a health department hearing, the paper reported.