Illinois hospitals averaging more than 6,000 COVID-19 patients daily
COVID-19 hospitalizations have averaged 20% more for the past week in Illinois than at the height of the first wave of the disease in the spring.
Hospitals statewide have averaged 6,058 patients being treated each day for COVID-19 between Nov. 16 and Sunday, according to Illinois Department of Public Health records released Monday. There are now 6,171 patients being treated for the virus in Illinois hospitals.
At the height of the state's original coronavirus surge last spring, the state never averaged more than 5,000 daily hospitalized patients for a week.
"Let's lessen the burden on all our hospitals, and we can do this by not spreading infections over the holiday," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet. People can still change their plans. We don't have to have superspreader events in our homes."
State health officials also announced 47 more deaths from the virus Monday, bringing the state's death toll to 11,552 since the outbreak began.
Additionally Monday, 8,322 more new cases of the disease were diagnosed, which means 664,620 Illinois residents have been diagnosed with the virus since testing began.
Health officials remain focused on hospitalization figures as beds become more scarce. Hospital capacity was lessened last week when IDPH began requiring hospitals to report the number of empty beds that could be staffed within four hours of need, rather than just total number of beds in a hospital. That cut about 2,000 beds from the state's supply, including about 400 intensive care beds.
Of those hospitalized, 1,206 are in intensive care, which is more than 36% of the state's total number of ICU beds. That's also the most COVID-19 patients in ICU beds statewide since May 12.
While hospitals continue to see a surge in patients, the state's seven-day average infection rate continued its decline and now stands at 10.9%, state officials also announced Monday.
"The recent moderation in the number of cases and positivity rate is certainly good news," said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. "I think it is an effect of the previous mitigation efforts we put in place. But I think counteracting that is if people are not going to follow mitigations when they're having Thanksgiving, then they're potentially going to have more infections."
The four suburban health regions all experienced declines in average test positivity rates after weeks of growth. However, they all remain well above the 8% threshold at which restrictions on gathering size and on some businesses are tightened.
For instance, Region 7, which contains Will and Kankakee counties, now has a seven-day average test positivity rate of 19.2%. That means for every 100 tests taken by residents in those counties, more than 19 came back positive each day for the past week. That's well over the state's warning limit.
The region is also reporting less than 15% of standard hospital beds are open, and that's below the state's 20% warning threshold. DuPage and Kane counties' Region 8 is also below the 20% available bed warning level, IDPH figures showed.
Friday ushered in stricter rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those include reducing capacity to 50% at grocery stores and 25% at other stores, suspending indoor group sports, closing casinos and gaming terminals, and banning events at banquet halls, party venues and clubs. Other restrictions ordered by Pritzker temporarily shutter movie theaters and limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people, and funerals to 10 relatives.
State officials also gave an update on unemployment issues the state has faced since the beginning of the pandemic. Illinois Department of Employment Security Acting Director Kristin Richards said technology and staffing upgrades to the state agency have allowed quicker response to those seeking to file claims.
She noted the need was so great that the agency was flooded with calls that overwhelmed the system. In the first three weeks of the pandemic and accompanying recession, IDES handled more claims than it had in all of 2019.
However, state officials also noted the unemployment system had suffered a significant amount of fraud because of shortcomings created by the federal response to the health and financial crises.
"Since July, my office has received nearly 850 written consumer complaints and approximately 4,000 calls about unemployment insurance fraud," said Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Raoul urged anyone who received notification from IDES about unemployment benefits they didn't apply for to visit the state's unemployment fraud website at illinois.gov/ides.