When the month of November dawned, it brought with it a sudden surge in the number of COVID-19 throughout the state of Illinois. The disease didn’t spare Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside, all of which saw record weekly spikes in the number of people testing positive.
By Nov. 3, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health, a total of 497 Brookfield residents had tested positive for COVID-19 in the 32 weeks since the county started publishing that data in March. Four of those people had died.
In the five weeks since Nov 3, the number of people testing positive in Brookfield has gone through the roof.
By the morning of Dec. 8, the village had blown past its 1,000th case to 1,052 – an increase of 555 new cases in five weeks, a 112 percent jump since Nov. 3.
Two more people – 33 percent of the total number of Brookfield residents who have died from COVID-19 – also died during that period, bringing the village’s total since March to six.
The latest fatality was an 83-year-old Brookfield man, who died from COVID-19 on Dec. 4, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner.
Riverside and North Riverside have experienced similar increases in the rate of new cases, although no new fatalities in those villages have been reported during the most recent surge. Since March, two Riverside residents and three North Riverside residents have died after contracting COVID-19.
But, since Nov. 3, Riverside has seen the number of people either confirmed or probable for COVID-19 jump 104 percent. Between Nov. 3 and the morning of Dec. 8, the total number of cases rose from 268 to 548.
In North Riverside cases soared 97.5 percent between Nov. 3 and Dec. 8, from 163 confirmed and probable cases to 322.
The only bright spot for the seven-day period ending on the morning of Dec. 8 was that the rate of new cases dropped in all three villages. At 87 new cases, Brookfield saw its lowest number of weekly new cases in a month.
The 39 new cases reported in the past week in Riverside were the lowest one-week total since the 16 added between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3. The village had been consistently above 50 new cases weekly since Nov. 3.
North Riverside’s weekly total of 30 new cases as of the morning of Dec. 8 was also lower than three of the five prior weeks, but in line with the 31.8 average number of new cases during that time.
But state health officials are warning residents not to get complacent.
On Dec. 7, Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Illinois residents that they are not yet out of the danger zone and that the next four weeks could be the most crucial of the pandemic.
“In other words, the surge on top of a surge that national experts have said might define the holiday season is still the focus of our attention,” Pritzker said at his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday in Chicago.
During the first seven days of December, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data, the state recorded an average of just under 10,000 new cases and 153 virus-related deaths each day, bringing the statewide totals since the pandemic began to 796,264 confirmed and probable cases and 13,343 fatalities.
Those fatalities included 372 individuals who had died since the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 4. On Dec. 5 alone Illinois saw 208 virus-related deaths, the second-highest single-day number since the pandemic began.
Although the daily number of new cases remained high during the week, the overall case positivity rate – new cases as a percentage of tests performed – remained relatively stable. As of Monday, the seven-day rolling average positivity rate stood at 10.3 percent, marking the 15th consecutive day it stayed below 11 percent.
“So far, we haven’t seen our positivity rates start to creep back up, which is a good sign,” Pritzker said. “But we also haven’t seen it substantially fall – not a good sign. It may be that our mitigations are working to offset the expected surge in cases. But we won’t know that for sure, for at least two more weeks.”
While statewide hospitalization rates fell for the second straight week, down 7.7 percent from the week before, and down 9.5 percent from the period ending Nov. 23, hospitalization rates remained 14 percent higher than the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April and May, Pritzker said.
According to Illinois Department of Public Health data, as of Dec. 6 only 28 percent of the state’s staffed hospital beds remained available, and Pritzker warned that another surge in cases could stretch the state’s hospital resources to their limits.
Heading into the December holiday season, both Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged Illinois resident to celebrate in smaller, more intimate groups to reduce the spread of the disease.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines in the coming days, Pritzker said it could be a number of months before most people in Illinois have access to them.
In the meantime, Ezike also urged Illinoisans to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu in order to avoid what she called a “twindemic.”
Peter Hancock of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.