Illinois COVID-19 hospitalizations declining, but ICU space still low
For the first time in nearly a month, Illinois hospitals are treating fewer than 2,000 COVID-19 patients.
Additionally, there were fewer than 500 COVID-19 patients in ICU beds this past weekend for the first time since Aug. 25, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures.
IDPH officials Monday reported 1,905 COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospitals throughout the state, 463 of whom are in intensive care.
The state also saw 93 more COVID-19 deaths since Friday along with 8,415 new cases, according to IDPH records released for the first time in three days.
However, while the hospitalization figures appear promising, staffed ICU beds in many of the state's 11 health regions remain scarce.
ICU bed availability in nine of those regions is at or below 20%, the metric state health officials monitor to determine whether additional mitigation efforts need to be implemented.
In the state's 20-county southernmost region, there are still no staffed ICU beds available for any patients. All 88 staffed beds are currently occupied, IDPH records show.
In the suburbs, only Region 8, DuPage and Kane counties, is above the 20% threshold at 30.8% ICU bed availability.
Those two counties are also the highest fully vaccinated region in the state, based on IDPH records.
"The infections and severe illness we are seeing now are largely preventable and it just takes a shot," said Dr. Gregory Huhn, COVID-19 vaccine coordinator at Cook County Health. "And vaccinated people make up less than 1% of our nation's COVID deaths."
Huhn and other medical professionals are urging hesitant patients to get the COVID-19 vaccine and talk to their primary care physicians about any concerns they may have about the three vaccines available in the U.S.
"It was not rushed," said Dr. Claudia Fegan, chief medical officer at Cook County Health. "These vaccines were built off decades of research and are more effective than most of the vaccines we have used in the past. I wish other vaccines, like the flu vaccine, (were) as effective as these vaccines we have today."
Cook County Health has launched a new vaccination campaign called "Trust Us," which attempts to provide residents who are hesitant about getting the vaccine with an outlet to have questions answered.
Information is available at the health system's COVID-19 resource website, myshotcookcounty.com.
Doctors also spoke briefly about Pfizer's announcement that its vaccine works on children between the ages of 5 and 11. The vaccine is currently the only one approved for anyone 12 and older. The other two vaccine types -- Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- are available only to adults 18 and older.
"Their study results appear extremely promising," Huhn said. "Its possible authorization for children between 5 and 11 could come in the next month and for younger children by the end of the year."
Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his administration had come to terms on vaccine requirements with a small union group that covers about 260 state employees in supervisory roles at the Illinois Department of Corrections and Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
Pritzker has mandated vaccination for many other state employees by Nov. 18 as well. Union leaders for other larger groups of state employees pushed back against an earlier timeline and have yet to come to agreement on the governor's mandate.
School employees, health care workers and other types of employees are also facing vaccine mandates or have to submit to regular testing.
"We have a safe and proven tool to end this pandemic, and vaccination remains the most effective way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities," Pritzker said Monday.
The state's death toll from COVID-19 is now at 24,639, while 1,598,757 cases of the respiratory disease have been diagnosed since the outbreak began.
IDPH officials also reported the state's seven-day case positivity rate is now at 3.6%, its lowest point since late July. Case positivity is the percentage of new cases derived from test results. A seven-day average is used to account for any anomalies in the daily reporting of those figures.
Illinois is also once again averaging more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day for the past week, a rate of testing the state hasn't seen since November 2020.
Another 56,014 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered over the past three days, according to IDPH figures. The state health agency does not update COVID-19 data over the weekend.
Vaccine providers have now administered 14,340,302 doses statewide, but are currently averaging fewer than 20,000 inoculations a day over the past week, IDPH records show.
IDPH officials are reporting 54.5% of the state's population is now fully vaccinated.