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Pritzker, Ezike cautiously optimistic about drop in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

Governor JB Pritzker and other top state officials say they're seeing signs of progress in the...
Governor JB Pritzker and other top state officials say they're seeing signs of progress in the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. However, they feel it's not time to ease off precautions yet.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:59 PM CST
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CHICAGO (WGEM) - The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 26,491 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon. That is a significant drop compared to the daily reporting of new cases last week. However, IDPH also reported that 160 people died from COVID-related complications over the last 24 hours.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he is cautiously optimistic about the recent drop in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Although, the governor and Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike say people shouldn’t let their guard down because the omicron variant can still spread quickly. Pritzker explained that Wednesday is the seventh day since Illinois saw peak hospitalizations with 7,380 COVID patients.

The number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations has dropped 11.8% since January 13, and there are now 6,507 Illinoisans fighting COVID in hospitals. Still, the governor says there is an “awful lot of people” still battling for their lives, and the state’s ICU capacity is only at 10%.

Pritzker also says over 1,500 Illinoisans have died from COVID complications since the start of 2022.

“It breaks my heart to know that in the coming weeks, hundreds more may die among the thousands who are already seriously ill from COIVD,” Pritzker said. “Again, the vast majority of those are among the unvaccinated.”

Pritzker says vaccines, booster shots, and masks have helped lower the number of new COVID patients in hospitals. However, he noted the state’s health care system is still overwhelmed, so Illinoisans should do everything they can to keep beds available for those in need.

Ezike said the state is trying to pull every lever to have enough staff available at hospitals to help with the constant flow of COVID patients. Yet, she explained the downwards trends need to continue because the number of patients is still higher than during any other wave or surge of this pandemic.

Meanwhile, Ezike says IDPH has the infrastructure to get people vaccinated before future variants pop up.

“People have to get themselves ready just as they would for any natural disaster,” Ezike said. “And that preparation involves getting boosted and staying fully up to date.”

Ezike emphasized that someone who only received one dose of a vaccine isn’t prepared or covered against COVID-19. She said anyone who got one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get an MRNA second dose.

Dr. Ezike also said anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated should take responsibility and get the shot to protect themselves and their families.

State leaders also said it is still too early to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Ezike told reporters Wednesday that IDPH isn’t relying on the number of new cases to decide when that shift can happen. That’s mainly due to the fact that many across the state are using at-home testing, and the state can’t track the data if someone tests positive.

However, Ezike said you can’t hide a hospitalization.

“As we look at those hospitalizations and understand where those numbers are going, that is definitely a clear signal of the direction that we’re moving in. We want to just continue moving in that downward direction,” Ezike said. “Two years into the pandemic, we’ve learned so much and we’ve amassed so much knowledge. We have to figure out how we are going to live, how we’re going to co-exist, with COVID.”

The IDPH director said there could be some adjustments or shifts with widely available vaccines and more therapeutics options. However, the quantity of COVID-19 antiviral drugs is minimal right now. Ezike hopes that will improve soon to allow people to move past constant conversations about COVID.

83.1% of Illinoisans 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 73.7% of those in the same age range are fully vaccinated. The 7-day rolling average for shots given is 46,866.

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