BREAKING: Illinois Shatters Covid Record; Harsher State Restrictions Coming?
BREAKING NEWS: Illinois decimated the record for single-day cases of covid over the past 24 hours and the last week, as harsher covid restrictions were announced for Chicago and Northern Illinois counties, more schools and events were postponed, and officials hinted at harsher restrictions coming statewide.
Illinois’ one-day covid infection record was shattered yesterday as 18,942 new cases were diagnosed in the last 24 hours, ripping past the old record of 16, 581 set all the way back on Wednesday. The statewide average on cases is 12,573 per day over the past seven days — also a new record, according to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Illinois has now passed two million covid infections since the pandemic began, marking 2,002,360 as of the latest numbers. In addition, 66 deaths were reported, there are 4,178 people hospitalized for covid — another new record high — and 867 patients in the ICU, the highest in over a year. Only 11 percent of ICU beds are open on average statewide, with Northern Illinois’ Kane and Will counties having only six of 133 ICU beds available.
“Across Illinois, hospitals are experiencing a fifth surge of COVID-19 patients and are using lessons learned over the last two years to best care for those patients and expand capacity as needed,” the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said in a statement. “Unvaccinated individuals continue to represent a vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations. We are urging everyone to please get vaccinated as the vaccines, which have been proven safe and effective, remain the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death.”
“Getting tested for COVID-19 is critically important to helping reduce the spread of this deadly virus,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a news release Tuesday. “A year ago, our holidays looked much different. Now, with widely available testing, vaccinations and boosters Illinoisans can gather safely with family and friends.”
In the meantime, 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.
“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.”
Harsher restrictions have begun to quickly pop up around the state over the past week to stop the spike.
“Omicron is here in suburban Cook County, and it spreads incredibly quickly and easily, so CCDPH must take measures to contain the spread,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, Cook County Department of Public Health co-lead and senior medical officer, said in a statement. “We are concerned about how easily the omicron variant can spread among people, especially in crowded indoor settings. It is very important that we implement these measures to help lower the risk of transmission.”
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 and Illinois State University.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that after Jan. 3, Chicago will impose a vaccine mandate for bars, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses, requiring anyone over the age of 5 to show proof of vaccination or negative covid test over the past 24 hours.
Proof of vaccination or negative covid test will be required at restaurants and bars, entertainment venues where food and beverages are served, sports arenas, concert venues, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and indoor fitness centers. As of yet, other places of gathering such as grocery stores, churches, schools, and government buildings, are not included.
“These are the places that are the most risky places for spread, which is why we’re focused on them,” Lightfoot said in making the announcement last night. “This order will remain in effect until the city deems that the threat of covid-19 to public health has diminished significantly.”
As Chicago has gone in the past, so has the rest of Illinois, and as covid cases — particularly of the excessively virulent omicron variant — have exploded around Chicago and statewide, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Lightfoot have hinted at further restrictions for not just Chicago, but all of Illinois. With Lightfoot taking this step, many are speculating Pritzker could soon do the same for the rest of the state.
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 its 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.