Decline in weekly deaths may be a sign Illinois is on a downward trend, IDPH Director Ezike says

State receives third shipment of the drug remdesivir, expects another next week

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, delivers the latest numbers for the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday during Gov. JB Pritzker's daily press briefing on COVID-19 in his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, delivers the latest numbers for the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday during Gov. JB Pritzker's daily press briefing on COVID-19 in his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

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The state's 780 COVID-19 deaths reported for the week of May 11 to 16 marked the first time that weekly deaths have decreased from the week before, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Tuesday.

"I am hopeful that this fact is the beginning of a downward trend, but of course that also depends on all of us and making sure that we're doing all that we can to decrease the transmission of this virus," she said.

On Tuesday, the IDPH reported 1,178 new cases of COVID-19 and 39 additional deaths. That brings statewide totals to 113,195 confirmed cases and 4,923 deaths. Tuesday's numbers likely are down because some health departments have not yet reported new cases identified over the holiday weekend, Ezike said.

Last week, the state received its third shipment of the drug remdesivir, which has been found to be effective in reducing the longevity of COVID-19 infections, Ezike said.

"Remdesivir, that is the investigational drug that has shown some important clinical outcomes for hospitalized patients in that it decreases hospital stay," she said.

This time, the IDPH received 353 cases of the drug. Each case has enough vials to treat about five patients, depending on whether the drug is prescribed for a five- or 10-day treatment period, Ezike said.

The IDPH looked at several criteria in determining how to distribute the drug, including the number of COVID-19 patients at each of the state's hospitals as well as bed and ventilator use, she said. Every hospital that had at least one confirmed or probable COVID-19 case between May 12 and May 18 was given at least one case of the drug.

"The remaining cases of remdesivir were distributed proportionately among the hospitals based on the number of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in their hospitals during that same timeframe," Ezike said.

The state will not receive more of the drug this week but expects to receive another shipment from the federal government next week.

"While early studies have shown good results, this is still an investigational drug," Ezike said. "We're learning that there are other drugs that are in the pipeline."

As of Monday night, there were 3,788 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois. Of those people, 1,035 were in intensive care units, and 590 were on ventilator support, Ezike said.

Illinois conducted 17,230 COVID-19 tests in the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday afternoon for a total of 786,794 tests conducted.

All four of the state's health regions remain on track to move into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker said. The seven-day rolling average of the state's positivity rate has reached a low of 9.2%, down from the 12% rate reported Monday.

"COVID-related hospitalizations, which had been holding steady a couple of weeks ago, have now dropped to a six-week low with nearly 1,200 fewer beds in use by COVID-positive patients," Pritzker said. "And hospital bed and ICU bed availability are both above 30 percent."

These encouraging numbers are a result of the precautions that Illinois residents have been taking and should not be used as an excuse to abandon social distancing, Pritzker said.

"The pandemic is still here," he said. "Just because the numbers are moving in the right direction in the state of Illinois, that does not mean that the virus has gone away."

Also Tuesday, Pritzker announced the creation of "Phase 3 Business Toolkits," which provide signage, training materials and health guidelines to help businesses reopen safely.

The state has provided toolkits specific to each industry that will be able to resume business in phase three, he said. Toolkits can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website.

Regional update

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Northeast region (Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, McHenry, Lake and Will counties) reported a positivity rate average of 14.5%. The region reported an average of 26% of medical/surgical beds available, 28.9% of ICU beds available and 65.6% of ventilators available.

The North Central region (Bureau, DeKalb, La Salle, Lee, Ogle, Whiteside, Carroll, Boone, Winnebago, Stephenson, Putnam and Jo Daviess counties) reported a positivity rate rolling average of 7.2% on Tuesday. On average, the region has enough medical/surgical beds to accommodate a 38.4% surge in COVID-19 cases. The region reported that 41.3% of ICU beds are available and 58.9% of ventilators are available.

The Central region reported an average positivity rate of 2.7% on Tuesday. On average, there was an availability of 48.6% of medical/surgical beds, 49.6% of ICU beds and 75.5% of ventilators.

The Southern region had an average positivity rate of 4.7%. On average, there was an availability of 45.4% of medical/surgical beds, 40.5% of ICU beds and 76.5% of ventilators.

Threshold to move into phase three

In order to move into phase three of the Restore Illinois plan this Friday, each of the state's health regions must ensure that testing is available for hospital patients, healthcare workers, first responders and people with underlying health conditions.

Testing must also be made available to the residents and staff of congregate living facilities, according to the plan. A system for COVID-19 contact tracing and monitoring must be in place and able to respond 24 hours after diagnosis.

In addition to these requirements, each region must report an average positivity rate of 20% or lower, increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period.

Regions must also report no overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 for a period of 28 days, meaning hospitalizations must decrease or remain stable.

Finally, each region must prove available surge capacity of at least 14% of ICU beds, medical/surgical beds and ventilators.

Filing for unemployment

For those who will not be going back to work in Phase 3, Pritzker said he urges residents to continue filing for unemployment services through the Illinois Department of Employment Security website.

"We've expanded the number of phone lines, put new systems in so people are getting their calls answered at about a clip of 2,000 per day," he said. "...Your best bet is to go online, that system is now handling many many many multiples of what it could handle at the very beginning of this epidemic."

Similar to New York, Illinois has utilized the help of outside contractors in processing unemployment claims, Pritzker said.

Newly reported deaths

- Cook County: 1 male 30s, 2 females 40s, 1 female 50s, 3 males 50s, 1 female 60s, 4 males 60s, 4 females 70s, 11 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s

- DuPage County: 1 male 70s

- Fayette County: 1 male 70s

- Kane County: 1 male 80s

- La Salle County: 1 female 90s

- Madison County: 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s

- McHenry County: 1 female 60s

- Peoria County: 1 female 70s

- St. Clair County: 1 male 70s

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