Illinois COVID Hospitalizations Peaked One Week Ago, Pritzker Says

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Illinois COVID hospitalizations peaked roughly one week ago, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said while he is cautiously optimistic about a decline in metrics, the state is still facing heightened transmission.

"Over the last two years, I’ve said over and over that you don’t know when a
surge has reached its peak until you’re on the other side of it," Pritzker said during a COVID update Wednesday. "Today is our seventh day since we saw peak hospitalizations of 7,380 reported on Jan. 13 – that’s 1,145 more than the previous pandemic peak on Nov. 21."

The announcement comes at the same time Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city also passed its omicron peak, though the city's top doctor noted Chicago is "a long way from being out of the woods."

Pritzker echoed the need to remain vigilant.

"I am cautiously optimistic about this decline, but there are an awful lot of people still battling for their lives in hospitals across Illinois," he said.

Pritzker noted that with deaths often following rises in cases and hospitalizations, the days ahead could still prove to be challenging for the state.

"Despite the recent indications of fewer new infections and fewer new hospital admissions ahead, it breaks my heart to know that in the coming weeks, hundreds more may die among the thousands who are already seriously ill. Again, the vast majority of those are among the unvaccinated," he said. "That said, our declining hospitalizations rates are a hopeful sign that vaccinations, boosters, and masks are working. It is a sign to press on, to persevere – to keep going. So we will."

Last week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said most reported COVID deaths in the U.S. were likely still from the delta variant.

Speaking at the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing Wednesday, Walensky said she expects most of the recent spike in fatalities are lagging deaths from the delta variant wave.

The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 on Jan. 17 — still below the peak of 3,300 in January 2021.

Experts warn, however, that with deaths often lagging behind infections, the true impact of omicron remains uncertain.

Illinois on Wednesday reported 26,491 COVID cases in the last 24 hours, with the state's daily average sitting at 26,640 per day. That is an 18.3% decrease from the peak, which was hit on Jan. 12.

At the same time, 6,507 hospitalizations were recorded in the last day, an 11.8% decrease from the peak reached on Jan. 13.

The state also reported 160 deaths due to the virus Wednesday and is averaging 101 deaths per day, a number that has yet to see much decline, if any.

Similarly, Chicago is currently seeing decreases in daily case averages, test positivity rates and hospitalizations.

As of Wednesday, the city was averaging 2,903 cases per day, a drop from 5,399 last week. The peak number of daily cases reported in January was 8,553 cases.

The city's test positivity rate was also down to 12.6% Wednesday, after peaking on Jan. 1 at 19.6%.

"We're confident seeing that big decrease both in cases and then in positivity, that this is not just an artifact of testing. This is in fact, a true peak," Arwady said.

While hospitalizations are seeing early signs of decline, ICU capacity is plateauing, Arwady said.

"It does remain higher though than in any previous month. Of the pandemic. Our hospitals are still stretched. Make no doubt about that," Arwady said. "And the most important thing is getting vaccinated because that is the key thing for helping stay out of the hospital."

Arwady said while the "turnaround" is encouraging, the city is still seeing heightened transmission.

"It's really important over these next few weeks and months that we continue to work hard on getting folks vaccinated, getting folks tested, continuing to wear masks, because there's a long way to come down," she said. "However, I'm really pleased to have seen this turnaround."

Despite similar peaking trends being seen in other parts of the country, Arwady cautioned the "Midwest is still very much surging."

"[Wisconsin] has seen no signs of plateauing and has one of the very highest case counts in the country right now and very much on the way up," she said. "And then regionally, while Illinois case rates are on the decline, our surrounding states are generally continuing to rise- Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, all with higher COVID rates right now than Illinois, and largely on the way up with Wisconsin really standing out as having being in a major surge."

Every U.S. state and territory remains on the city's travel advisory for the third straight week.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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