In the beginning, they could be counted one by one.
A first case of the coronavirus was detected in Illinois in January, nearly a year ago. A few days later, a second case emerged.
Then, by March, there were four. And then dozens, and hundreds, and before we could fully grasp what was happening, thousands of Illinoisans were infected with coronavirus by the day.
And the virus just raged.
On Thursday, Illinois public health officials report the state has passed 1 million cases, the fifth state in the United States to reach that mark. Illinoisans have grown weary of hearing the words, “grim milestone.” Marking the virus in just a sheer number, to some, does injustice to the lives lost, now topping 17,272.
“In a pandemic that has contained far too many tragic milestones, today’s marking of one million cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Illinois deserves particular recognition,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a press release.
A generation of grandparents and aunts, parents and siblings and, yes, children dead.
Lives lost, elderly and disproportionately Black and Latino, remembered on this day and every day by those who loved them.
But on Thursday, there is that stark number still.
And before it’s all over, an untold number more.
Pritzker, with governors from Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, on Thursday also urged the federal government to expedite vaccine distribution.
“In each of our states, vaccine delivery has been much slower than we anticipated, so it is imperative that the federal government distribute the vaccines it is holding on reserve. These vaccines will save millions of Americans from the unnecessary danger and hardship of contracting COVID-19,” Pritzker said in a press release.
According to the release, the federal government is holding back more than 50% of currently produced vaccines “for unknown reasons.”
At the same time, the release states, the country is losing over 2,600 Americans each day, according to the latest seven-day average.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct that Illinois is the fifth state to report more than 1 million cases of coronavirus.
Mariah Woelfel is a general assignment reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @mariahwoelfel.