COVID-19 hospitalizations drop to lowest level since state started keeping track
The number of patients in hospitals being treated for COVID-19 has reached the lowest level since the Illinois Department of Public Health began reporting that metric, officials said Thursday.
There were 997 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Wednesday night, less than the seven-day average of 1,084.
That's a stark contrast with 6,175 patients in hospitals on Nov. 20, 2020, as Illinois' second COVID-19 surge was cresting last fall.
"I'm delighted that the numbers look so good and less people are critically ill but until that last person is discharged healthy from the ICU, it's hard for me to celebrate," said Dr. Phillip Cozzi, a pulmonary medicine specialist at Elmhurst Hospital.
Elmhurst Hospital has eight COVID-19 patients now versus up to 80 in November.
"The experience was depressing to see so many people so ill for such a prolonged period of time, and yet it was really encouraging to see so many saves," Cossi said.
The hospital staff benefited from lessons learned early in the pandemic, using more effective medications, such as steroids, to treat patients. And, as the state expanded its COVID-19 testing program, positive cases could be identified quicker. At first, "only the sickest of the sick were tested," Cossi explained.
In spring 2020, he worked 11 weeks straight with one day off, but "anything I experienced paled in comparison to watching your loved one struggle on a machine or to be that person," Cossi recalled.
The state reported 674 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, with 24 more deaths.
The 674 infections are the most since Saturday, when 802 more cases were counted, and above the seven-day average of 637 but still reflect a downward trend.
On Wednesday, 36,372 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 37,328.
The federal government has delivered 13,788,135 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 11,374,677 shots have been administered.
So far, 5,317,858 people -- 41.7% of the state's population -- have been fully vaccinated. Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses several weeks apart.
The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is at 1.5%.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,383,739, and 22,865 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
Labs processed 55,432 virus tests in the last 24 hours.
Also Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago will move into the final stage of reopening, Phase 5, in step with the state June 11.
"But -- a note of caution -- COVID-19 is still here," Lightfoot said at a briefing. "Why we are able to do what we're doing is a result of vaccinations."
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady explained that in Phase 5, statewide "restrictions are going to be lifted off businesses. We won't have capacity limits in place."
However, "certainly we will still see masks around," Arwady said. "Masks are still required on public transit, in schools, health care settings, and some businesses may decide to continue having mask policies. The recommendation remains that someone who is not vaccinated should continue to wear a mask."