Illinois leaders urge people to get vaccinated as COVID patients overwhelm hospitals

There is now an average of 550 new COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals each day.
There is now an average of 550 new COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals each day.(CNN)
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 7:03 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois has now broken the previous record for people hospitalized with COVID-19 complications. There are currently 6,294 COVID patients in Illinois hospitals, and Gov. JB Pritzker fears that number will continue to rise.

You may see rumors on social media about empty hospital beds across the state. Yet, state leaders want people to know that those are simply false. There is now an average of 550 new COVID patients in Illinois hospitals each day.

“Although initial information indicates that Omicron may not cause as severe illness as Delta, we are not seeing fewer people in the hospital because there are just so many more people with COVID, period,” said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The ratio of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalized compared to those who are not may be decreasing, but because there are just so many people with COVID-19, our hospitals are still completely overwhelmed.”

Pritzker explained Monday that unvaccinated patients make up 85% of the COVID patients in hospital beds and 95% of the intensive care beds. The governor said unvaccinated people are also using nearly 100% of the state’s ventilators. Pritzker explained the number of children going into pediatric wards with COVID has nearly tripled since the start of December.

“Across the state, we have regions where ICU bed availability, not just COVID ICU but staffed ICU beds for other emergencies like car crashes and heart attacks and strokes are frighteningly limited, in just the single digits,” said Pritzker.

Pritzker recently worked with health care leaders to urge providers to postpone non-emergency surgeries, hoping to free up more beds for COVID patients.

The governor also encouraged you to stay home if you’re sick, get vaccinated, wear your mask, and encourage others to get vaccinated. However, there are no new statewide mitigations at this time.

As the Omicron variant continues to surge across the country, many are looking for places to get tested for COVID-19. While appointments quickly fill up for tests at major pharmacies and local health departments, some groups recently set up scam testing sites.

Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike warned that some are unfortunately taking advantage of people by setting up pop-up testing locations without results. The governor wants those fake testing sites shut down and asked the Attorney General’s office to investigate.

Ezike says you should ask questions to lab workers if you feel something is suspicious. She suggested you can ask what lab the workers send the tests to and when you’ll receive results. The IDPH website lists locations and hours for trusted COVID-19 testing sites so you can confirm before getting tests.

Block Club Chicago broke news about the unregulated testing sites last week. While that organization’s reporting centered on issues with testing scams in the Chicagoland area, many across the state have experienced similar issues.

“That is an enormous problem. Some of them are not even returning results at all,” Pritzker said. “We intend to make sure those operations are no longer doing to customers and patients what they have been doing.”

Meanwhile, Ezike says everyone must step up to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m asking for you help in this new year, 2022,” Ezike said. “Let’s get more people tested, let’s get more people vaccinated. Let’s limit the spread of this virus and let’s get closer to the end of this pandemic.”

Ezike and Pritzker also say people should wear N-95 or KN-95 masks now instead of cloth masks. Multiple studies have found cloth masks are less effective against the Omicron variant.

Dr. Ezike appeared virtually during Monday’s press conference because she recently came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

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