BREAKING NEWS: Shutdowns of performances, events and schools have begun to hit Illinois as covid numbers rage “out of control” and the omicron variant begins to make its spread across the state, as Gov. JB Pritzker hints at more restrictions and shutdowns to come.

“This is setting up to be a very deadly COVID Christmas and New Years,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Friday in a video press conference. “Hospital bed availability has reached a critically low level, demand on resources is high and the wait times in local emergency departments are very long.

“This virus is devastating the economic stability of our counties with the same intensity we have witnessed in human victims and the toll it has taken on families all across the region,” she said. “Here in the northern Illinois Rockford region, hospitals are seeing COVID admissions rise at an alarming rate.”

BREAKING: Shutdowns Begin In Illinois As Covid Numbers Rage 'Out of Control'

Dr. Ngozi Ezike

On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 11,858 new cases statewide over the previous 24 hours — another day around the record 12,000 over the past year — and reported 59,312 new COVID-19 cases over the past week, along with 316 additional deaths, numbers which continue to skyrocket. Illinois numbers are raging “out of control,” according to Dr. Ezike, as the state has averaged more than 8,000 cases per day over the last week — the first time that’s happened since December 2020.

The omicron variant has begun to spread around Chicago, as cases have been reported in Chicago and its suburbs in Cook County.

There were also 52 new covid-related deaths reported in the last 24 hours, and 3,725 hospitalizations statewide due to covid — both are high water marks over the past year. The IDPH has now reported 1,933,291 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, and 27,065 deaths statewide.

BREAKING: Shutdowns Begin In Illinois As Covid Numbers Rage 'Out of Control'

Illinois covid cases continue to see new record spikes in December.

Fewer than 10 percent of the state’s intensive care unit beds are now available due to the spike, with 772 patients in intensive care unit beds statewide, the highest number since Jan. 6, 2021. Almost 400 of those patients are on ventilators.

The rapidly spiking numbers have caused shutdowns to begin in the public and private sectors. Schools had sporadically shut down over the last month due to covid spikes at different spots statewide — including a shutdown of Edison Junior High in Rock Island here in the Quad-Cities — and in Region 1, including northern Illinois counties Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, and Winnebago, the school board is saying they’ve had a hard time remaining open.

“We’ve recently had 16 staff members out and there is not capacity in our learning community to make up that many staff,” North Boone Community Unit School District Board President Ed Mulholland said. “At some point, if this continues, we will be forced to reevaluate our strategies, as other school districts in the region have already done. We currently have 218 students quarantining out of a total student population of 1,600. As you can imagine, the impact on student learning is huge.”

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Winnebago County issued a disaster proclamation due to covid last week, with Winnebago County Board Chairman Joseph Chiarelli leading the call after his own horrible bout with covid.

“My experience being hospitalized with COVID identified a need for not only prevention, but intervention, and I want to advocate for additional treatment options to be readily available to Winnebago County residents,” Chiarelli said in a released statement.

In addition, performances at public venues have begun shutting down.

BREAKING: Shutdowns Begin In Illinois As Covid Numbers Rage 'Out of Control'

Covid-19 Illinois provides new and accurate numbers about the spread of covid in the state weekly.

The Paramount Theatre in Aurora on Friday announced the cancellation of performances through Sunday of its current production of “Cinderella” due to covid.

“Pretty Woman: The Musical” was shutdown by Broadway In Chicago.

The Joffrey Ballet canceled Dec 17-18 performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Lyric Opera House due to covid.

And Teatro ZinZanni, the dinner theatre/cirque extravaganza at the Spiegeltent ZaZou on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop, released a statement on its website announcing that it was closing down, with a hope to reopen on Dec. 26.

In the meantime, as has been hinted at for weeks, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker once again came closer to enacting new statewide restrictions, and gave his blessing to any cities or counties that wanted to do so unilaterally to stop the spread.

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“Illinois has some of the most stringent mitigations already,” Pritzker said. “That is wearing masks indoors. That is what the mitigation regime needs to be get vaccinated wear a mask indoors, you know, please socially distance, especially if you don’t know the people that you’re with. I know that people are gathering during this holiday season, just be extra careful.”

In the same question and answer session with media, Pritzker encouraged authorities around the state to “implement more stringent mitigations as they see fit,” and did not rule out more statewide mandates coming from him.

Illinois’ trends for restrictions tend to begin in Chicago, and spread throughout the state, and in the third-largest city in the U.S. its mayor, Lori Lightfoot, admitted that they are looking at more restrictions before the holiday to stop the quickening spread of the virus.

In a press conference, Lightfoot said they haven’t “landed on one particular strategy,” but are looking at a number of options, and said that the restrictions would be “made in a patient and methodical manner.”

BREAKING: Shutdowns Begin In Illinois As Covid Numbers Rage 'Out of Control'

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

“We are looking at a number of different strategies that can help us deal with this latest surge, but we always do that in partnership and in communication with the individuals and the businesses that are going to be affected,” she said. “We don’t unilaterally impose anything.”

As reported last week on QuadCities.com, all 11 of the regions has had increased hospitalizations over 9 of the last 10 days, with hospitalizations for the state jumping up over 40 percent in the last two weeks. Region 1, located in northwestern Illinois, is already at a 9.5 percent positivity rate; 8 percent was the previous trigger for shutdown, combined with ICU bed availability below 20 percent. Under the previous metrics, Region 1 would’ve been shut down. Other regions, including Region 7 in the Chicago western suburbs, and Region 5 in southern Illinois, are likewise nearing those metrics.

Illinois cases are up over 40 percent since the start of December, and officials are finally admitting that they’ve been looking at expanding statewide restrictions.

“We have moved into very high transmission,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. “While unsurprising, this news should remind Chicagoans of the ongoing threat from COVID-19, especially as families prepare to come together over the holidays.”

For ongoing coverage of this situation, continue to follow QuadCities.com.

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BREAKING: Shutdowns Begin In Illinois As Covid Numbers Rage 'Out of Control'
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.