BREAKING: Illinois Covid Cases Exploding As Omicron Fears Rise And Shutdowns Loom
BREAKING NEWS: Illinois covid cases continue to explode, reaching their highest levels in a year, as the omicron variant has spread to 16 states nationwide and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker hints at future restrictions for the state.
New covid cases statewide have raged over the past two weeks, with over 7,100 cases per day — the highest numbers since December 2020 — according to the Illinois Department of Public Health data. Over 11,000 new cases were reported statewide over the weekend, and Illinois has been reporting more new tests per day than it has at any point during the pandemic, with a new record of 231,876 new test results last Thursday.
The state is logging 153,311 test results per day — marking the highest number since the pandemic began. State positivity rates are also on the rise throughout Illinois, going over 5.4 percent statewide, according to the latest IDPH numbers released today. That includes several of the state’s regions hitting markers previously used to trigger shutdowns.
Hospitalizations are also skyrocketing, with 2,842 patients currently hospitalized statewide, the most since September of this year, with 579 in intensive care unit beds, and 256 on staffed ventilators, also the highest numbers in four months.
On top of that, the first Midwest case of the omicron COVID variant has been confirmed in Minnesota, the state’s health department confirmed Thursday, and the variant has been detected in 16 states now, up from just one less than two weeks ago.
Though health officials have not confirmed the presence of omicron in Illinois yet, a variety of other COVID-19 variants make up the thousands of cases statewide.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 30,274 coronavirus cases are active across the state from the alpha, beta, delta and gamma variants.
Given all that information, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in a recent press conference that the current mitigations for the state — including the statewide mask mandate — would not be going away any time soon. He also once more did not rule out further mitigations and restrictions, and acknowledged that the infectious Omicron variant is probably already in Illinois.
“We have an indoor mask requirement in the state of Illinois and so we’re not lifting that, especially now,” Pritzker said. “When I want to lift [the mandate] is when we start seeing hospitalizations plunge, considering that’s a particular problem.”
Officials are urging people to maintain the mask mandate, continue to be safe, and get booster shots, to prevent the rapid spread from raging even further.
“I want people to get a booster now,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady in a press conference last week. “Why do I want people to get a booster now? Because right now — forget omicron — delta [variant] is doing a job on Chicago and on the upper Midwest.”
“I don’t want people to think ‘oh my god, vaccines aren’t working now.’ That’s not what we’re saying here,” Arwady said. “But we’re saying that with this potential new variant, we could be seeing some more breakthroughs and we could be seeing some more people getting covid again, even if, you know, even if they had covid in the past.”
“Clearly right now, getting your first and second dose is the most important thing — the most important thing,” she said.
Officials have not ruled out more severe mitigations for the state, and several regions in the state are at levels that would have previously triggered additional restrictions. Those include Region 1, located in the northwestern corner of the state, where the positivity rate has risen to 9.3 percent and the availability of ICU beds has remained under the 20 percent threshold for over a month of consecutive days, according to IDPH data. In addition, Region 6, located in the eastern portion of the state and including Champaign County, is approaching the 8 percent threshold for positivity rates, sitting at 7.5 percent.
The previous mitigation standards for a shutdown stated that any region with positivity rates in excess of 8 percent, ICU bed availability below 20 percent, or increasing hospitalizations, would be hit with higher restrictions up to and including a shutdown.
“I consult with hospital leaders frequently to determine what’s the situation in your hospital, do you have enough beds? What do you think will happen if we continue to have an increase? What are your plans? We’re always watching that to know is there something more we need to do,” Pritzker said.
Locally in Rock Island County, the situation is likewise dire.