2 new COVID-19 deaths reported as cases surge, health care providers issue plea

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Two more COVID-19-related deaths of Sangamon County residents were reported Thursday as new COVID-19 cases in the county hit a new record and local health care providers pleaded in an open letter for more people to get vaccinated.

New COVID-19 cases statewide hit a new one-day record — 30,386 — as hospitalizations statewide and in Sangamon County approached levels last seen a year ago.

“We know you’re sick of COVID-19 — believe us when we say that we are, too,” four major health care organizations in Springfield wrote Thursday in a joint "letter to the community.”

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The letter from HSHS Illinois, Memorial Health, SIU Medicine and Springfield Clinic urged people to “get vaccinated, get boosted, wear your mask and avoid big crowds” even though “we know you are tired of hearing about the surge and what you need to do to protect yourselves.”

The letter continued: “Our wish as we start this new year is simple — please think twice. Take one more step to protect yourself and those around you. Don’t look back and think, ‘if only.’ If only I had stay home when I was ill. If only I had worn a mask in crowded indoor areas. If only I had been vaccinated or boosted.”

The two new COVID-19-related deaths involved a partially-vaccinated man in his 50s who tested positive Dec. 15 and died Tuesday, and a fully-vaccinated man in his 50s who tested positive Dec. 10 and died Wednesday.

The Sangamon County Department of Public Health on Thursday reported 759 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, a new one-day record that eclipsed the previous record of 460 cases set on Tuesday by 65%.

Even though local officials have said the number of people being tested has increased in recent days and weeks, it appears the increase wasn't solely the result of more people being tested and, in fact, indicates an increase in COVID-19 transmission.

That’s because the average seven-day test positivity rate has been rising in Sangamon County, from 6.9% on Dec. 19 to 14.5% on Dec. 27, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Earlier: Sangamon County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 60% of people fully vaccinated

IDPH officials have said the omicron variant, which is more transmissible than the delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading in Illinois, and at least four Sangamon County cases have been tested in samples in recent days.

Statewide, the new single-day record for new COVID-19 cases exceeded the previous record of 21,131 cases on Dec. 24 by 9,255 cases, or almost 44%.

New COVID-19 cases for the seven-day period ending Thursday were up 66% statewide compared with the previous seven-day period. And the total number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 5,689 as of Wednesday, has increased 50% in the past two weeks, according to IDPH data.

Eighty-seven new deaths were reported statewide on Thursday, bringing the state’s total confirmed COVID-19 fatalities to 27,821.

COVID-19 has played a role in the deaths of 312 Sangamon County residents, with 21 of those deaths reported in December, county officials said.

Eighty Sangamon residents with COVID-19 remained hospitalized Thursday. That’s the highest number of COVID-19 patients from the county in the hospital since 83 on Dec. 3, 2020, county spokesman Jeff Wilhite said.

More headlines: COVID-19 delays start of 2022 General Assembly; drafting a state budget remains a priority

Slightly more than 60% of Illinois residents and Sangamon County residents are fully vaccinated, according to IDPH.

The health care providers' letter to the community said they wished they didn’t have to continue reminding people to take precautions against COVID-19.

“But as we enter 2022, we know we have to keep trying,” the providers wrote. “Because we know we’ll be entering the new year remembering those we cared for in 2020 and 2021 who didn’t make it. Supporting those who should be relaxing at home with friends and family, not starting the new year alone in the hospital. Wishing with all our might we could provide some relief to the emergency patient who didn’t think it could happen to them — and who wants nothing more than to turn back time and take the vaccine that could have saved them from being wheeled through our doors.

“We’re tired, but we’re not going anywhere," the letter concluded. "We’re here to treat you, support you and give you the very best of ourselves, whatever may come. But we need your help to keep our families and communities safe. We need your help to make 2022 different. And we know it’s not too late.”

Contact Dean Olsen: dolsen@gannett.com; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Sangamon County, Illinois COVID case totals set new records

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