By Bob Uphues
After seeing numbers ease in the weeks around the Christmas holidays, the number of people in Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside with new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 rose again in the most recent week-long period, ending on the morning of Jan. 5.
The rise comes just as vaccines against the disease are slowly being rolled out in Cook County, with first doses administered in the past couple of weeks to front-line health care workers, long-term care home residents and employees and local first responders.
However, there's been no information on how or when the vaccine will be rolled out to the general public, and President Donald Trump washed the federal government's hands of administering vaccines, tweeting on Dec. 30 that "The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!"
At the local level, the Cook County Department of Public Health has outlined its phased approach for prioritizing vaccine distribution, but has not detailed any plan to make the vaccine available to the general public.
In Brookfield, where the number of new COVID cases on Dec. 29 during a one-week period fell to levels not seen since October, the pace has picked up again. For the week ending on the morning of Jan. 5, there were 74 new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 reported by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
That brought the total number of people contracting the disease since last March to 1,355.
The number of new cases during the past week also inched upward in Riverside and North Riverside.
In North Riverside, where new cases fell to one digit for the week ending Jan. 29, last week's number of new confirmed or probable cases rose by 23, similar to what the village was experiencing right before Christmas but still below its all-time weekly high of 36 cases in late November. Total cases in North Riverside since the pandemic began surpassed 400 in the past week, with 411 reported as of the morning of Jan. 5.
New confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 for the week ending on the morning of Jan. 5 also ticked up in Riverside by 31 after seeing two consecutive weeks of decreases.
Since the pandemic swept through the area in March 2020, a total of 673 Riverside residents had contracted the disease.
For the first time since Thanksgiving, no new fatalities due to COVID-19 were reported in any of the villages. In all, the disease has claimed 11 lives in Brookfield and three each in North Riverside and Riverside.
State leaders urge caution
The state's COVID-19 hospitalizations and average case positivity rate remain below second-wave highs while public health officials in Illinois continue to caution residents that a post-holiday surge could materialize.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 5,059 new and probable cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with an average of 5,900 of new cases daily from Dec. 31 to Sunday.
Those case figures are significantly lower than the second wave peak of 15,415 cases on Nov. 13 — which was the highest number of daily new cases reported since the pandemic began.
The latest numbers bring the statewide totals since the pandemic began to 984,880 confirmed and probable cases and 16,834 fatalities. Those fatalities included 477 individuals who died since Thursday afternoon.
Hospitalization rates continued to fall for the sixth straight week. From Dec. 28 through Jan. 3, the daily average hospitalization count from COVID-19 stood at 4,099, down 7 percent from the week before, and down 33 percent, or 2,029, from the period ending Nov. 23.
At the end of Sunday, there were 3,948 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, an increase of 131 from the day prior.
The statewide seven-day rolling average positivity rate has ticked upward slightly, increasing for the eighth straight day. The average positivity rate increased above 8 percent on Jan. 1 after falling below that figure for 11 straight days.
In Region 10, which encompasses all of suburban Cook County the seven-day rolling positivity rate also has been on the rise. On Dec. 26, the rate was 8.9 percent, but during the following week had ticked up to 9.8 percent as of Jan. 1, the most recent data available from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in an interview with Good Morning America last week that state officials will be monitoring the data closely to see if there is a spike after Christmas and New Year celebrations.
"Thanksgiving was a much shorter holiday. We had the most tiny blip, almost insignificant. But with the Christmas and the New Year's, with that break being days, weeks actually, there's a lot of concern, especially as the fatigue is real," Ezike said during the Dec. 29 interview.
Sarah Mansur of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.