Illinois COVID-19 hospitalizations increase 42% in two weeks

For the first time since September, more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Illinois.

The 1,505 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals throughout the state represents a 42% increase from just two weeks ago.

But medical officials note the state is still in far better shape compared to this time of year in 2021 and 2020.

“We've been increasing slightly over the past three weeks,” said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital in Naperville. “But it's not anything like what we were dealing with the previous two winters, with the biggest difference being the severity of symptoms.”

According to Illinois Department of Public Health records, hospitals were treating more than 5,100 COVID-19 patients two years ago, with 21% of those patients requiring ICU beds. At that time, vaccines were not yet available.

By early December 2021, vaccines were widely available, but IDPH records show Illinois hospitals were still treating more than 2,800 COVID-19 patients statewide, with nearly 20% in an ICU.

Of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 163 — about 10.8% — are in ICU beds.

Antiviral medications like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir have proved to significantly reduce COVID-19 symptoms, medical officials said. They also are recommending precautions like masking in large indoor settings to avoid infections.

“Both of these antivirals are effective at reducing the likelihood of severe COVID illness and hospitalizations and should be prescribed as soon as possible after COVID diagnosis for best effect,” said Dr. Mia Taormina, infectious disease chair at Duly Health and Care. “It is important to remain vigilant on vaccination protocols and prevention — especially as we begin to gather with more frequency and in higher numbers during the holiday season.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 16% of the eligible population of residents 5 and older have received an updated bivalent vaccine booster that targets the current dominant strains of the virus.

The national average is 12.7%. Illinois has the 15th highest bivalent booster uptake among the 50 states, according to CDC records.

IDPH also is reporting a spike in new cases, with the state's seven-day new-case average currently at 3,387. The state's seven-day average hasn't been this high since August.

Other respiratory ailments like the flu and RSV have also put a strain on hospital resources, but Pinsky is hopeful those infections may be leveling off.

“COVID is still leading the pack for hospitalizations, followed by the flu and then RSV, though we may have reached our peak with influenza,” he said.

Since the outset of the pandemic, COVID-19 has killed 35,506 Illinois residents, which includes 224 deaths recorded in November. Only two months have seen fewer COVID-19 deaths in Illinois than last month, IDPH records show.

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