COVID-19 rules eased, state hiring more health care help

 
 
Updated 1/18/2021 6:06 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois public health officials reported 3,385 fresh cases of coronavirus illness Monday, and 50 more deaths as Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration eased social interaction restrictions in most parts of the state.

Daily diagnoses of new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, remain well below totals counted in November, the worst month for infections since the virus picked up speed in Illinois in February. Illinois has dodged expected surges in cases following holiday time travel and family celebrations.

 

Nonetheless, the entire state had been under so-called Tier 3 mitigation rules until late last week. The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday announced statewide health care contracting to supplement existing hospital staff. That enabled IDPH to loosen restrictions in most areas of the state, significantly to at least a level that allows indoor dining to resume.

Only Region 4, which covers the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis, and Region 7, covering Will and Kankakee counties just south of Chicago, remain in Tier 3.

'We are pleased to see most of our regions move out of Tier 3 mitigations with this change, and it is critical that we maintain this progress," Dr. Ngoze Ezike, the public health director said, noting that recently identified, more contagious strain of the coronavirus has reached the state.

'With new variants of COVID-19 spreading, it is more important than ever to follow the public health guidance that keeps people safe '" wear and mask and watch your distance.'

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During the initial onslaught of the virus last spring, authorities readied supplemental bed space for fear existing hospitals wouldn't have enough. That proved unnecessary as health professionals realized that while there was enough space, staff to care for patients limited a hospital's capacity.

The Pritzker administration is using the state's large-scale buying power to contract with vendors for health care workers to bolster Illinois' workforce.

Illinois has now reported 18,258 deaths since the pandemic reached Illinois. The virus has infected 1,072,214 people. As of Sunday night, there were 3,345 hospitalized, with 705 in intensive care and 392 on ventilators.

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Follow Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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