Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that two of the state's health care regions — Region 1 and Region 7 — are facing dire circumstances as the number of available hospital beds are dwindling.
Region 1 is located in the far northwest part of the state, while Region 7 covers Will and Kankakee counties.
"If we wait to take action and our hospitals are full, it will be too late, and countless patients, COVID patients, as well as all the other ailments and injuries bring people to the hospital, will die unnecessary deaths because there aren’t enough beds or people to staff them," Pritzker said.
Region 1 and Region 7 have both "long since surpassed the worst COVID-19 hospitalization rates they ever saw in the spring," Pritzker noted. Region 1 has more than doubled its spring peak, and Region 7 is at 150% of its spring peak, the governor said, adding that "they are not outliers."
"Our hospitals are located in Region 1 and our numbers have over doubled the peak in spring and early summer," Dr. Michael Coolish, the chief medical officer for Northwestern Medicine's Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, said during Pritzker's briefing Monday.
Coolish noted that hospitals are preparing surge plans, but still remain safe for patients. The influx of patients has already taken a toll on staff, however, he said.
"As we continue to have the volume to go up, it's difficult for our staff... to continue the long hours," he said.
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Ruth Colby, president of Silver Cross Hospital, echoed those claims, saying hospitals and health care workers are "weary" and expressing concern that added staffing will be hard to come by.
"We are competing as always with the other states," Colby said, noting that with neighboring Wisconsin's hospitalizations even worse than Illinois', many traveling health care workers have been called to that state already.
Pritzker and his top doctor, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, are advising much smaller Thanksgiving get togethers.
"We’re encouraging people to stay at home, have their own, if we can, we’ll do a Zoom Thanksgiving," Pritzker said.
Illinois had previously reached its hospitalization peak roughly six months ago, but as the state's latest wave lifts the number of average patients in Illinois facilities well above 5,000, the state is seeing record numbers.
As of Monday, Illinois was averaging more than 5,200 coronavirus patients in state hospitals, a number that is 400 more individuals than the spring high, and a 70 percent increase in the last two weeks alone, Pritzker said.
According to state data, 5,581 residents are currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses in Illinois. Of those patients, 1,144 are in intensive care units, and 514 are on ventilators.
All three statistics are the highest metrics the state has seen in their respective categories since the first peak in COVID-19 cases earlier this year.
"The nation has been swept by a COVID storm that has taken Illinois’ positivity rate from low single digits to the mid teens," Pritzker said. "And with nearly no mitigations in the states bordering us and no national strategy to reduce the spread, we’re in for a very difficult next few months."