COVID-19 hospitalizations up 24% from a week ago, while teens face vaccine challenge
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up 24% in Illinois from a week ago, with Monday bringing the largest single-day inpatient spike since mid-November, Illinois Department of Public Health figures show.
The upswing came as vaccinations also increased 25% last week over the previous week and as Illinois on Monday opened eligibility to everyone who's at least 16 years old.
"Right now, it's a race between vaccine and variants," said IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike, referring to mutated COVID-19 strains that in some cases are more contagious. "We are seeing more variants being detected, but we are also seeing vaccinations increase."
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients averaged 1,804 per day over the past week, up from an average of 1,452 a week ago.
On Monday alone, hospitals around the state saw 164 more COVID-19 patients than the day before, according to IDPH figures.
Teens' struggle for shots
Monday marked the first day anyone 16 and older in Illinois could get vaccinated, a week ahead of the timeline President Joe Biden set for the nation.
But while 16- and 17-year-old residents are now eligible for a vaccine, their ages pose some additional logistical problems.
Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for that age group, and most vaccination sites don't list what vaccine they're using when people sign up for appointments.
"I found an appointment for my 17-year-old daughter on the first try," said Stephanie Bynum of Wadsworth. "When we arrived for the scheduled appointment, she was told she wasn't able to get the vaccine because they didn't have Pfizer."
Bynum was directed to another nearby pharmacy with the Pfizer vaccine and was fortunate to secure an appointment for her daughter, who has been eligible for weeks as an essential worker in so-called Phase 1B.
"She was a bit hesitant when the 1B group was first eligible because there weren't many vaccine studies done on younger people," Bynum said of her daughter, Annika. "She has a friend who lives in California who got her first dose because of preexisting health reasons, and I think knowing someone her age who received their first shot gave her some confidence to get vaccinated."
Most 16- and 17-year olds are in school when vaccination sites are operating during the week.
"The district's regular attendance policy is in effect, so students are expected to be in school during school hours," said Tom Petersen, a spokesman for Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211. But the current schedule leaves much of the afternoon open for academic support, athletics or activities, "or even vaccination appointments," he said.
The latest stats
IDPH officials reported Monday that vaccine providers had administered 64,772 more COVID-19 vaccine doses over the previous 24 hours.
That brings the number of vaccine doses administered in Illinois to 7,243,383, with 2,890,492 residents -- or 23% of the population -- considered to be fully vaccinated. Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker Monday specifically singled out the work of the Illinois National Guard, which has helped administer more than 1 million of the 7.2 million doses of vaccine given in Illinois.
"As we've ramped up our vaccination efforts across the state, our Guard has once again stepped up to meet the moment -- as they always do," Pritzker said.
IDPH officials also reported 18 more COVID-19 deaths along with 2,433 new cases diagnosed.
More than 10% of the state's residents have now been infected by the virus, with 1,282,205 total cases diagnosed in Illinois during the pandemic. The death toll stands at 21,523.
That means the virus has proved deadly for 1.7% of Illinoisans who contracted the disease. Almost half those deaths were residents 80 and older, according to IDPH figures.
The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is at 4.4%, on the rise again after staying at 4.2% for the previous four days. Case positivity allows health officials to track the spread of infection among a specific population by determining the percentage of new cases that arise from the number of test results each day.
Lake County Health Department officials announced the mass vaccination site at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake has transitioned to a walk-through clinic in order to treat more people. The site is no longer doing drive-through vaccinations.
"This change, made possible by the warmer weather, allows us to increase our daily capacity at the site, meaning more appointments will be available each week for our residents," Lake County health officials said in a news release issued Saturday.