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Illinois has worst COVID-19 week in months as deaths, hospitalizations continue rise

Illinois reported over 100 COVID-19 deaths for the fourth straight day Saturday.

Illinois reported over 100 COVID-19 deaths for the fourth day in a row and over 6,000 remain hospitalized for a third straight day on Saturday, adding up to its worst week during the pandemic since the spring.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 127 new deaths from the virus on Saturday, for the state's deadliest week in six months. Since Nov. 15, more than 760 in Illinois have died from COVID-19, for a total of 11,430 since the start of the pandemic, state data shows.

There are a record 6,175 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 as reported on Saturday. Hospitalizations have been on a record-breaking streak since Nov. 11, when they surpassed a late-April peak, and have more than doubled in the past four weeks, data from The COVID Tracking Project shows.

The alarming figures come as new COVID-19 restrictions are in effect across the state in response to a surge in cases and hospitalizations. Cultural institutions, event spaces and casinos are temporarily closed, and capacity at major retail stores is reduced.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged people to stay at home as much as possible in the coming weeks.

"If we all avoid the trips outside the house that we don't need to take right now, we can fight this recent surge and turn things around for our health care workers and hospital systems who are facing an increasingly dangerous situation across the state," he said.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, also urged people to remain vigilant and take precautions.

"This is a traumatizing, mass-casualty experience for all of us," she said.

The family of a COVID-19 victim asked people to take the virus seriously during Friday's briefing.

"Now these aren't just numbers. They're not just statistics. These are real people with real lives and real futures that have been stolen by this virus," said Tina Rubin, the mother of Danielle Kater, a 30-year-old Bloomington woman who died of COVID-19 earlier this month.

Ezike noted that people have been able to drive down COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations before.

"When states across the United States and even some countries around the world began the stay-at-home orders, we all wanted to do whatever we could to prevent additional sickness and deaths," she said. "And it worked. And the number of cases decreased, as well as the number of hospitalizations, as well as the number of deaths. They decreased dramatically."

As "numbers trend in the wrong direction now," she continued, "that support that we initially saw has faded, and in some cases is absent."

COVID-19 cases are especially on the rise in the state's long-term care facilities. There were over 3,500 new cases reported this week -- the largest weekly increase since a peak in May, according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune.

Ezike pointed to the rise in community spread as contributing to the jump in the facilities.

"If our communities are not safe, nowhere can be safe," Ezike said. "That's why it's so incumbent upon all of us to observe these mitigations. Let's get the transmission of the disease down, so that health care workers in whatever setting ... can have a chance at being healthy and not have the high risk of bringing that into the facilities."