Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the expansion of COVID vaccination resources and increased staffing at testing sites Monday as the state's top doctor revealed Illinois is experiencing its highest surge in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Delivering a coronavirus update, the governor asserted the "pandemic has brought a grave threat to our state," saying he'll do "everything possible" to protect all of Illinois' residents - regardless of their vaccination status.
With more cases occurring due to outbreaks of the delta and omicron variants, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Illinois is reporting the highest surge in cases from across the entire pandemic.
Though the most recent COVID metrics have been delayed due to the holiday weekend, the state set a new record for single-day COVID cases on Thursday, with more than 18,000 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus reported within 24 hours.
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According to figures from IDPH, a total of 18,942 cases of the virus were diagnosed in a single day, shattering the previous record for most positive test results in one day.
As cases have risen, so have hospitalizations, Ezike said, with the state averaging about 500 new COVID hospital admissions daily.
"It continues to be the case that the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are not vaccinated," the doctor stated, pleading with people to get vaccines and booster shots and as a result help curb the pandemic.
While testing is "critical" to further slow the spread of the virus and its variants, testing doesn't amount to protection from the virus, Ezike noted.
"If you don't want to do it to protect yourself from hospitalization and death, can you do it to protect others?" she asked. "Can we do it as a sign of respect for the men and women in our hospitals and our health care systems who are overwhelmed and exhausted?"
In response to rising cases, the state of Illinois plans to offer free booster clinics and more than double personnel at facilities, adding at least 100 people to regional sites that are administering vaccinations, preparing vaccine doses for clinic personnel, and doing data entry.
Starting the week of Jan. 3, free community based testing sites will also begin operating six days a week.
Head here to find information about booster shot and vaccine clinics near you.