Hospitalizations continue to rise because of the unvaccinated, state health officials say
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois are back above 3,500 for the first time in 11 months, and health officials are placing the blame largely on the unvaccinated.
Advocate Aurora Health officials Monday announced the system with 26 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin has seen COVID-19 hospitalizations increase by more than 100% over the past month.
The health care group sampled 430 COVID-19 patients two weeks ago and determined 74% of those patients were unvaccinated, 18% were partially vaccinated or due for a booster, and 8% were fully vaccinated.
"I think the data we have provided is a compelling argument not only to get vaccinated but to get boosted," said Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention at Advocate Aurora Health. "What we want to get across is this question of, can you get COVID if you've been vaccinated and boosted? Yes. But your chances of getting severely ill or dying from it are extremely low."
In ICUs throughout the system, the percentage of patients who are unvaccinated is closer to 90%, said Dr. Raul Mendoza, a pulmonologist in Wisconsin.
"And that's the same trend nationwide," he said.
Illinois Department of Public Health officials reported 3,513 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across the state.
That's the most since Jan. 13, exactly 11 months ago.
Of those hospitalized, 748 are in intensive care.
"It's very unusual for a perfectly healthy young person who's been vaccinated to end up in the hospital, especially in the ICU," Citronberg said.
Since IDPH last updated the state's COVID-19 figures Friday, 105 more deaths from the virus have been recorded throughout Illinois and 19,515 new cases have been diagnosed.
The state's death toll from the respiratory disease now stands at 26,906, while 1,904,259 infections have been diagnosed.
Illinois also recorded nearly 500,000 test results over the past three days, including 233,784 results returned Saturday, the most ever in a single day for the state.
The state's seven-day case positivity rate has dropped to 4%, the lowest it's been in two weeks. Three days ago it was at 4.3%, IDPH records show.
Case positivity is the percentage of test results that show a new infection. A seven-day average is used to account for any anomalies in the daily reporting of those figures.
Additionally, IDPH reported 173,251 more COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered over the past three days.
That brings the total number of vaccine doses administered to 18,181,157.
To date, 59.4% of the state's 12.7 million residents are considered fully vaccinated. More than 2.4 million booster doses have been administered as well, IDPH records show.
Both doctors noted that vaccines show greater defense against COVID-19 than any natural immunity the body may provide after contracting the virus.
"That is a misconception that if I've had COVID before, then I've got immunity," Mendoza said. "That is not true; that immunity fades rather quickly, and the antibodies become weak, so the chances for reinfection are quite high."
There are almost 800 COVID-19 patients currently being treated in Advocate Aurora's 26-hospital system, the doctors noted. Almost all of the system's COVID-19 patients are hospitalized because of the virus and its symptoms.
It's rare, Citronberg said, that a patient is infected with COVID-19 but was admitted for some other health issue.
"That number represents an extremely small proportion of our inpatients with COVID," he said. "Of all of our people in our hospitals with a diagnosis of COVID, the vast majority -- well over 90% -- are there because they are receiving treatment for it."
Mendoza said he's seen many family members of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients go get immunized after seeing what the disease does to their loved ones.
"Fear is a powerful driver," he said. "Every week I have a patient with severe illness, on a ventilator or is about to die, and I take the opportunity to reach out to the family members, some who may be unvaccinated, to do some education and then for them to reconsider their vaccination status."