ACROSS ILLINOIS — The number of patients in Illinois hospitals with COVID-like illnesses has reached an all-time high, with 5,258 people across the state currently hospitalized because of the virus, state officials said Friday. The state also shattered another 24-hour record for new cases with 15,415 testing positive for the virus.
The rise in cases and drop in hospital capacity has the state at a crisis level, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday. And local leaders, he again said, are partially to blame.
"They're awful," Pritzker said. "If we've been watching these numbers go up, there has got to be some personal responsibility that gets taken for people wearing masks in their communities and asking their neighbors and friends who are not wearing masks to wear them."
"But also the local leaders, as I've said, who are taking no responsibility. And, in fact, they are leading others to believe, 'Oh, it's OK if you gather in big groups. It's OK if you have a concert in your bar. It's OK if people don't wear masks.' And that's just wrong," he added.
Since Oct. 1, the state has seen a 179 percent jump in hospitalizations, 161 percent increase in COVID patients on ventilators and 135 percent spike in ICU admission. Comparable, during the spring COVID-19 surge, the highest number of patients in hospitals statewide occurred on April 29 when there were 5,036 patients with COVID-like illnesses receiving treatment.
"More Illinoisans are in the hospital battling COVID-19 now than we saw during our highest average in the spring," Pritzker said.
As of late Thursday night, 990 patients receiving treatment in intensive care units and 488 patients who are on ventilators.
If Illinois doesn't turn a corner, the state could see its hospitals and intensive care units fill up, he said. In addition, hospitals may not have enough doctors and nurses to treat patients.
"They are now working extremely long hours like they did last spring actively saving lives on the front lines of this pandemic. Preventing the spread of COVID keeps our healthcare workers healthy," Pritzker said. "In the midst of this COVID storm, protecting nurses and doctor may mean the life of someone you care about will be saved."
Meanwhile, some hospitals in the state have stopped offering elective surgeries due to bed shortages, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ezike Ngozi said Friday. She did not believe any of the hospitals were in the Chicago area.
"We are seeing capacity decrease everywhere. Because when you get this many cases that translates into a certain amount of hospitalizations," Ezike said. "Everyone is heading in the wrong direction and so everyone is trying to make plans to brace for that and offer the care, not just for the COVID patients, but if someone has a heart attack tomorrow that person is also going to want to have a bed in a hospital."
In the past week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state health officials have issued warning after warning regarding the precipitous rise in cases and quickly dwindling bed availability of hospitals while also chastising local leaders for not enforcing guidelines and penalizing businesses, mainly restaurants and bars, that have remained open.
The topic of a stay-at-home order did not come up on Friday, but on Thursday, Pritzker said it could be coming soon.
"If things don't take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point where some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order will be all that is left," Pritzker said Thursday. "With every fiber of my being, I do not want us to get there, but right now that seems like where we are headed."
To date, 10,504 people have died from COVID-19 with an additional 27 residents losing their battle with the virus in the past 24 hours. About half of those deaths, 5,200, occurred between March and June 1 when the state's stay-at-home order was in place — a time when the virus spread quickly through many long-term care facilities, killing those most vulnerable to it.
To date, 7,455 of the 10,504 deaths in the state, or 71 percent, have been among those 70 and older, according to IDPH stats.
"This wave is hitting us in a different way," said Ezike regarding the difference between the state's spring surge and the current spike in cases.
Currently, four regions have enacted Tier 2 mitigations: Regions 2, 5, 7 and 8. And more agencies are issuing stay-at-home advisories these days, including suburban Cook County and the city of Chicago, as they urge residents to avoid non-essential activities.
The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a similar advisory Wednesday, telling everyone in Illinois to remain at home "as much as possible" over the next three weeks and as the state heads into the Thanksgiving holiday.
"If you do choose to have a small, in-person Thanksgiving, the safest way to do it is to have every single person in attendance quarantine, or come close to it, for the two weeks prior, so that would start today," Pritzker said earlier this week.
Region 9, which includes Lake and McHenry counties, is on track to enter Tier 2 mitigations on Saturday, health officials have said.
According to Tier 2 of IDPH's mitigation plan, additional restrictions at bars and restaurants would limit party sizes to six people instead of 10. Gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, would be limited to 10 people, though that does not apply to students learning in person or to sports.
Groups participating in organized recreational activities will also be limited to 10 people, but that restriction does not apply to fitness centers, according to the IDPH's plan. The mitigations also do not apply to schools.