Illinois hospitals and health care workers voiced that they are overwhelmed by the latest COVID-19 surge as less then 10% of the state's ICU beds remain open, data from the health department revealed.
The National Nurses United organization is expected to hold a rally Thursday at the Chicago Medical District, located at 1901 W. Harrison St., at 11 a.m. as part of a nationwide campaign demanding safe staffing and better protection for nurses.
“As we enter year three of the deadliest pandemic in our lifetimes, nurses are enraged to see that, for our government and our employers, it’s all about what’s good for business, not what’s good for public health,” said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez in a release.
According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there are currently 7,219 hospitalized patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state. That is just below the all-time record for hospitalizations, which was set on Tuesday with 7,353 hospitalized patients, according to IDPH data.
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Of those patients, 1,131 are currently in intensive care units, one of the highest numbers recorded during the pandemic. Approximately 9% of the state’s ICU beds are currently open, according to the latest data.
“We’ve never had this many COVID patients in the hospital at any point in the pandemic, not in the spring of 2020, not in the winter of 2020. This is the absolutely highest number. Our previous totals have been smashed,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of IDPH, said during a Wednesday press conference.
There are currently some signs that the state may be seeing a flattening of several key COVID metrics, including in terms of hospitalizations.
In the last two weeks, the state has seen slow declines in the number of new hospital admissions, with the seven-day average of hospitalized patients slowly slowing its growth, according to IDPH data.
Since Jan. 1, when the state saw a 4.75% increase in its seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations, there has been a steady decrease in that number, with the average increasing by 0.76% on Wednesday.
Moreover, the number of critically-ill patients has largely steadied as well, having stayed around the 1,100 patient-plateau for nine consecutive days.
Still, Ezike and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a series of initiatives designed to give some relief to hospital workers amid the surge of COVID cases.
According to Pritzker, more than 900 workers have been sent to hospitals hard-hit by COVID in recent weeks, and another 552 are on the way this week.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also sending workers to hospitals in Rockford, an area hard-hit by COVID cases.
The state is also stepping up its efforts to encourage individuals to receive booster shots of the COVID vaccine, saying that the booster has been proven to be an effective tool in keeping patients from becoming dangerously ill due to the omicron variant.
More than 80% of patients who have COVID in Illinois hospitals are completely unvaccinated, with more patients having not received a COVID booster despite being eligible.
The unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID than vaccinated residents, according to IDPH.
Just 0.08% of individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID have ended up hospitalized, and an even smaller number have passed away after contracting the illness, according to IDPH data.
Despite the slowdowns in some key metrics, Illinois officials are urging residents to continue to take steps to keep themselves safe, including getting vaccinated or boosted, and to continue wearing masks in public places.
The state is averaging more than 32,500 new COVID cases per day, the highest number it has recorded during the entire pandemic.