Illinois expects to have 3,400 new cases of COVID-19 a week from now if the virus continues to spread at its current pace, WBEZ has learned.
If 20% of cases are severe, about 650 more infected people would need to be hospitalized, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
If the state’s projections hold, Illinois would see an eight-fold increase in the number of people who test positive for the new coronavirus in the next week. As of Thursday, there were 422 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois. Four people have died, and public health officials have repeatedly warned that residents should expect those numbers to increase.
In an email, a state public health department spokesperson told WBEZ the estimated figures are based on the trajectory of cases this week continuing.
“This is a novel virus and information is rapidly evolving so estimated projections will likely change,” according to an unsigned email from the Illinois Department of Public Health’s communications office.
But measures like social distancing, closing schools, working from home and not dining in restaurants could change the projection, the spokesperson wrote.
“Because the incubation period is 14 days, anything we do now to disrupt the exposure would take at least two weeks to show any effect,” the email reads.
Public health officials have pleaded with Illinois residents to stay home as much as possible to contain the spread of COVID-19. On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot mandated that anyone who is sick must stay home, except for medical visits or to get essentials like food. Chicago cops have raised questions about how they would enforce it.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Department of Public Health is making contingency plans should people who get sick, but don’t need to be hospitalized, need a place to isolate themselves. Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top public health chief, said Chicago officials are planning for potentially thousands of people to need alternative housing.
The number of people who test positive for COVID-19 will likely dramatically rise as testing becomes more widespread.
Kristen Schorsch covers public health and Cook County politics for WBEZ. Follow her @kschorsch.