After a sharp decline in COVID-19 activity over the summer, admissions for the virus at Naperville’s Edward Hospital are starting to climb again.
While the numbers are not quite as high as this time last year, the hospital has admitted 14 to 18 patients every week since the start of August, said Jonathan Pinsky, Edward’s medical director of infection control and prevention.
That’s an uptick from June and July, when they hit “an all-time low as far as hospitalizations,” Pinsky said.
Edward also reported that its most recent COVID death occurred Sept. 9, bringing its total number of confirmed coronavirus hospital deaths to 292 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Compared to a year ago, however, the current number of hospitalizations — and the severity of the cases — are not reaching comparable levels, Pinsky said.
“Over the most recent winter, 2022-2023, weekly admissions were sometimes in the 20s or 30s,” he said. “And just tracking back throughout last year, we had anywhere from 20 to 40 patients admitted (on a weekly basis). ... So, it’s less than what we have seen, but it’s still a limited increase.”
That data mirrors what’s happening at the county level, officials said.
DuPage County cases have increased since the May-to-July time period, according to Chris Hoff, deputy director of public health. For the week of June 7, for example, the average number of daily cases reported to the county was about 20 per day. This week, the average daily number over the last seven days is 83, Hoff said.
In Will County, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22 new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 for the week ending in Sept. 2. That’s a 69.2% jump in COVID-19 hospital admissions from the previous week.
On a per capita basis for the same week, there were three hospital admissions per 100,000 people, which keeps Will in the low category. DuPage is likewise below the threshold for low admissions, which the CDC defines as less than 10 per 100,000.
“We’re certainly in a better place than we were two years ago,” Hoff said, but that’s not to say people no longer need to be aware.
“There is still a risk of infection, like any respiratory illness,” he said. “Just like when the flu is really rampant at school or in your family, it’s important for people to keep themselves protected.”
Nationwide, COVID activity has gradually climbed since early July, according to CDC data. This week U.S. regulators approved updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which the CDC recommends everyone six months and older receive when they become available in the coming week.
The updated vaccine will “protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter,” the agency said in a news release issued Tuesday.
The agency also is cautioning that cases of other seasonal respiratory illnesses, including the flu and respiratory syncytial virus — or RSV — will likely start increasing over the next few months. Between the three viruses, “even an average respiratory season can place significant strain on our health care system,” the release said.
Last year, Naperville-area retailers saw intermittent shortages of children’s cold, flu and fever relief medicines and antibiotics as residents faced the triple threat of respiratory illness. Looking ahead to challenges the city may see this winter, Pinsky said shortages are possible “if we see a lot of viral infections again,” which is why people need to “take advantage of all the tools that we have to stay healthy.”
The updated vaccines should work well against currently circulating variants of the virus, including EG.5 — a descendant of omicron and now the dominant variant — as well as other emerging strains, such as BA.2.86, experts said.
“I think it’s another great thing for our tool box,” Pinsky said. As is the use of masks, especially for those who are immunocompromised or more susceptible to infection. It’s “a smart thing to do,” he said.
“We know that the virus evolves,” Pinsky said. “It’s a reminder to stay on top of things. We do have updated vaccines that can help restore and enhance protection. People get flu shots every year, and now we’re getting used to updated COVID shots every year.”