COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to grow, but mortality dwindles

  • People wait in line at the DuPage County COVID-19 vaccine site at the county fairgrounds in Wheaton last week.

      People wait in line at the DuPage County COVID-19 vaccine site at the county fairgrounds in Wheaton last week. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, March 30

Updated 4/7/2021 6:27 AM

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois continue to climb, hitting a level Tuesday the state hasn't seen since mid-February with more than 1,600 patients.

However, suburban doctors are quick to note the new patients they're seeing these days are less likely to die from the virus and are recovering at a much faster pace than those sickened by the respiratory disease in the past.


"What we have now is a vaccine-preventable disease, and we're seeing that in the patients coming in," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital in Naperville. "The new vulnerability is not being immunized."

Edward-Elmhurst Health officials reported just 24 COVID-19 patients being treated systemwide Sunday. On Tuesday, that number had climbed to 45.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials announced Tuesday hospitals statewide were treating 1,648 patients with 357 of them in intensive care.

While hospitalizations spike, the state is also averaging fewer than 20 COVID-19 deaths a day for the fourth straight day, something that hasn't happened in Illinois since September. IDPH officials reported 13 more deaths Tuesday. That brings the state's death toll from the virus to 21,935 since the outbreak began.

While epidemiologists note that deaths are a lagging indicator in a pandemic and tend to grow weeks after a spike in hospitalizations, some suburban doctors believe the number of those who die from the virus will continue to remain lower than what the state saw after previous hospitalization spikes.

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"We are not seeing the kind of mortality we had before," said Dr. Alan Loren, chief medical officer at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. "These patients are younger, too, and most are getting out with shorter lengths of stay."

That's largely due to immunization of the most vulnerable populations, they said.

"We have had zero patients from nursing homes in the last month," Pinsky said. "We're also seeing very few over 65, with most in their 40s and 50s, so we expect the mortality to be lower in that age group."

IDPH officials also announced Tuesday that 95,188 more COVID-19 vaccinations were administered to Illinois residents and workers. The number is slightly inflated because so few inoculations were reported on Easter Sunday by many vaccine providers, officials explained.

IDPH figures show 6,413,258 vaccine shots have now been administered throughout the state since the vaccine rollout began in mid-December.

Vaccine providers are now averaging 106,976 shots each day over the past week, and 2,424,674 people are now fully vaccinated -- nearly one in five Illinois residents, according to the state's figures.


IDPH officials also announced Tuesday the federal government's Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities has "effectively ended" after administering more than 368,000 doses in nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout the state.

And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also awarded Illinois $90 million to expand vaccination programs in disproportionately affected areas of the state, federal officials announced Tuesday. Chicago also received another $33.8 million alone from the federal agency.

"We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations," said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky. "Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic. This investment will support state and local health departments and community-based organizations as they work on the front lines to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake."

IDPH officials also reported 2,931 new cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of Illinoisans infected to 1,261,667 since the pandemic began.

The state's seven-day average case positivity rate rose slightly to 3.9% after remaining stagnant for three days. Case positivity is the percentage of new cases diagnosed from test results each day. A seven-day average is used to smooth any anomalies in the daily reporting of new data.

Tuesday's single-day case positivity rate was at 5.7%, one of the highest levels of that metric since January. However, that spike could be attributed to a lack of reporting on Easter Sunday as well.

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