Illinois Covid Numbers Skyrocket To New Record; Shutdowns, Vaccination Mandates Begin Soon
Illinois once again saw its covid numbers skyrocket to a new record, as shutdowns of schools and businesses are starting to seep through the state, and vaccination mandates are coming to the northern part of the state, prompting speculation about another statewide shutdown.
For the third time in a week, Illinois covid numbers set a new record high. Almost 19,000 more new cases of covid were confirmed over the last 24 hours, according to figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, whose data showed 18,942 cases of the virus were diagnosed. The seven day average for the state covid infection rate is now 12,573, yet another new record since the pandemic began.
Covid-related hospitalizations are also at their highest levels in over a year, with 4,178 total patients currently hospitalized because of the virus. There are fewer than 10 ICU beds left for patients in almost half of the Illinois regions, as ICU bed availability is near capacity in Regions 1, 3, 5, and 7.
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.
In reaction to the exploding numbers, shutdowns and new restrictions have begun statewide. Beginning Jan. 3, Chicago as well as suburban Cook County — areas in regions 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 — will require proof of vaccination for many indoor public spaces.
“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, CCDPH 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.”
Officials are fully expecting an even more massive surge after the Christmas and especially New Year’s Eve holidays, as people completely ignore advice and mitigations and continue to spread the virus.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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