Coronavirus infection rate, hospitalizations key to gauging curve

By Jim Hagerty
Reporter

ROCKFORD – Illinois officials announced 2,450 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the total number of infections to nearly 60,000.

And while the number of cases continues to rise, it’s not the figure that indicates where Illinois is on the curve. It’s also not the number Gov. J.B. Pritzker will use to decide when to lift more stay-at-home restrictions.

“I would look at the infection rate and not the total case numbers,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Saturday during his daily press briefing. “If you do the math here, and use the tests done as a denominator and how many positives as a numerator, you’ll see that we’re down on that average from what was around a 21- or 22-precent infection rate to something (in the) high teens. I think that’s something for people to look at. The gross number of positive cases really isn’t any indication of much other than we’ve done more testing.”

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State laboratories processed 15,208 lab tests in the last 24 hours, resulting in a daily infection rate of 16%. And because the running total of 58,505 cases also includes an unknown number of presumptive positives, the actual infection rate isn’t currently known.

“Then I would look at the per-capita infections all across the state,” Pritzker said. “Because you can see a certain number of cases in a county, and it doesn’t seem like many because maybe there are very few people who live in that county.”

In Winnebago County, with a population of about 287,000, there’s been 501 confirmed cases. The health department reported Saturday that of 5,978 tests administered, 2,618 were negative while 2,589 specimens are pending.

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Pritzker is also looking at hospitalization rates, and said there needs to be a 14-day decline in those numbers before he relaxes more guidelines.

“We sill have increasing hospitalizations and flattened hospitalizations in some areas,” Pritzker said. “We need to watch those numbers and have them coming down again. And we point, once again, to the plan the CDC and White House put out as a guide for when can we really begin to re-open.”

And it’s still not clear if Illinois has seen its peak in new cases. National models estimated the state would peak around April 15. Models the governor is using, ones he says are more indicative of what’s happening in Illinois, show a peak happening somewhere between the beginning and the middle of May. But, even those models, he said, are just estimates.

“And sometimes that peak is kind of flat,” Pritzker said. “And we’ve been talking about flattening for some time. And, truthfully, as we’ve been talking about flattening and bending the curve, as I’ve indicated, we are still going up by a little bit. Maybe you would call that flat. But, whatever you would call it at the moment, we are not going down. And that’s what we need to do. Hospitalizations are a very important number.”

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Statewide, 4,717 hospital beds are filled by COVID-19 patients, a number that’s been steadying for more than a week. Of those, 1,250 people are in intensive care, 789 of whom are on ventilators. Locally, 410 of 910 beds are filled. There’s one ICU bed in use and 70 available ventilators.

There have been 2,559 COVID-related deaths across the state, including 105 new fatalities reported Saturday. Nineteen people have died in Winnebago County. Boone County has seen 134 infections and 11 fatalities. With the exception of a few cases, Boone and Winnebago residents who have died lived in nursing homes or other assisted-living facilities. Almost all fatalities have involved at least one underlying health condition.

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