BREAKING: Illinois School Shutdowns, Vaccination Mandates Begin As Covid Omicron Slams State
BREAKING NEWS: Illinois school shutdowns have begun, along with shutdowns of various businesses and performances, and Chicago area businesses are beginning to require vaccination for entry, as covid continues to ravage the state and the omicron variant begins to spread rapidly.
Yesterday set the record for the most covid cases in one day since Dec. 1, 2020 as 12,328 new cases of the virus were reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Today, Illinois public health officials reported 10,264 new cases and 63 covid-related deaths. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 7.6 percent. There have been 1,985,779 total COVID cases, including 27,291 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.
The omicron variant has begun to sweep across Illinois, with confirmed cases in seven counties, all around Chicagoland. The variant was responsible for 73 percent of new cases over the last week nationwide.
Hospitalizations continue to skyrocket, with less than five percent of ICU beds available in some counties. Over 4,000 patients in Illinois are currently in the hospital with covid in Illinois, with 845 patients in the ICU and 432 on ventilators.
“Hospital bed availability has reached a critically low level. Demand on resources is high,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director, Illinois Department of Public Health. “This is setting up to be a very deadly COVID Christmas and New Year’s.”
“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.”
Health officials in Cook County, which encompasses Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, are warning that “suspected cases of the omicron variant are rising… and are likely to escalate quickly,” the health department said in a press release. “CCDPH is issuing Increased mitigation practices for individuals and businesses. CCDPH urges suburban Cook County residents to follow them to slow the spread of COVID-19. We must continue to work together to keep each other healthy and to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.”
Locally, Quad-Cities heathcare officials are pleading with people to exercise caution, especially going into the holidays, to slow to incredibly quick spread over the past month.
“2020 has been a period of darkness, suffering, and death, and we’re still living in that shadowy time before the sun fully rises,” said Janet Hill, CFO and PIO of the Rock Island County Health Department during a press conference last week. “In the Quad-Cities, we sit at a 60% vaccination rate, which means that 40% of those eligible to be vaccinated have not stepped into the light to end the pandemic. We’re back to overflowing hospitals, exhausted healthcare and public health workers, and grieving families. Except this time, it’s all preventable.”
Dr. Kurt Andersen from Genesis Health System urged people to get vaccinated to help stop the spread in a video conference last week, and Nita Ludwig, Administrator of the Rock Island County Health Department, posted on the department’s Facebook, “We have been averaging 150 shots per clinic day. We can do more shots on these days. Please stop in and get vaccinated. There are also many pharmacies, Community Health Care, and other providers in our county to obtain a vaccination. Find your shot at www.vaccines.gov. The time to act is now.”
The havoc wreaked by covid over the past month in Illinois has prompted several schools across the state to announce they’ll be going to remote learning at least to begin the next semester in January. Northwestern, DePaul and University of Chicago in Cook County will all begin as remote learning, as will University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign in downstate Champaign.
In addition, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Gov. JB Pritzker have brought up more rigorous restrictions and more mitigations, and for the first time, Chicago and surrounding Cook County officials are recommending to businesses — most notably bars and restaurants — to begin to require proof of vaccination or negative covid tests to enter.
In addition, performances at public venues have begun shutting down.
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.
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.