Illinois sets record for new COVID-19 cases in a day with 18,942
New cases of COVID-19 in the state totaled 18,942, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Thursday. It's the state's highest count for a single day since the pandemic began.
The infection surge comes as the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 circulates, accounting for about 73% of new cases in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
And in the Midwest, "omicron is making up more than 90% of cases in our region," said Dr. Kiran Joshi, Cook County Health senior medical officer at a briefing.
Caseloads spiked by 57% in two weeks, rising from an average of 8,011 new infections a day from Dec. 10 to 16, to 12,573 in the last seven days.
Joshi and other experts urged eligible residents to get COVID-19 booster shots, which help protect against omicron, as well as pandemic basics such as masking in public and avoiding holiday gatherings with unvaccinated guests.
"We're concerned about the impact the surge will have on our hospitalizations," he said.
Illinois hospitals were treating 4,271 COVID-19 patients Wednesday night, the highest level since Dec. 28, 2020, when there were 4,313 admissions.
'Still my passion'
Among the thousands of Illinois hospital workers taking care of COVID-19 patients over the holidays is registered nurse Erin Woodson, clinical leader at Edward Hospital's emergency department.
The Oswego mother will say goodbye to her three kids, ages 3, 5 and 7, Christmas Eve afternoon and head out to her 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift at the Naperville hospital.
The waiting room, the busiest it's been in Woodson's seven years, includes the usual pre-pandemic crowd.
"People still have strokes and heart attacks, and fall off roofs putting up Christmas lights," Woodson said.
But with the recent spike in those seeking treatment for COVID-19, "we are absolutely swamped. Our patient volumes are so much higher than we're used to at this time of year," Woodson said.
Despite the risks and stress of pandemic nursing, "this is still my passion," Woodson says. "I could not see myself doing anything else. I still love bedside nursing. I love dealing with patients and their family members.
"We see people on some of the worst days of their lives. Trying to have an impact when they're down on their luck or not feeling well ... and their genuine thank yous -- that's what keeps me going."
One advantage to leaving before dawn: "I might happen to see Santa when I get home," Woodson said.
Case positivity rises
The state's seven-day average case positivity rate is at 6.3%, up from 6% on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, 78,889 more COVID-19 shots were administered, up from the seven-day average of 65,827.
So far, 8,113,624 Illinoisans have been fully vaccinated, or 64% of the state's 12.7 million population, according to the CDC. That's two Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and one Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The state recorded 78 more deaths from the respiratory disease. Total cases statewide stand at 2,021,302, and 27,435 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began.
The federal government has delivered 21,229,925 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 18,853,953 shots have been administered.
Labs processed 223,281 virus tests in the last 24 hours.