Hospitalizations for COVID-19 down by 20%, even as 'Kraken' cases rise
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 declined by more than 20% in a week and counties at an elevated transmission level for the virus also decreased, the Illinois Department of Health reported Friday.
That's some good news as yet another highly infectious variant, scientifically designated XBB.1.5 but nicknamed the "Kraken" strain, proliferates.
The Kraken variant was detected in about 8% of new cases in Illinois, which are genetically sequenced for COVID-19 mutations, compared to 2% one week ago, officials said.
"I am encouraged to see COVID-19 community levels once again declining and hospital capacity remaining stable this week," state public health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a statement.
"IDPH is closely monitoring the XBB 'Kraken' variant, which is spreading in the northeastern United States and leading to increased cases and hospitalizations. It is important for all of us to prepare for and be aware of this emerging variant."
The state health department said 16,602 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the week ending Jan. 8, compared to 16,281 in the week ending Jan. 1. The agency has ceased issuing new cases tallies on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, there were 1,395 COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals as of Thursday in contrast with 1,766 on Jan. 5.
Who's in the hospital currently?
At Edward Hospital in Naperville, "predominantly, these patients are elderly or immunocompromised," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention. "Most patients who are getting admitted right now with COVID-19 ... (have) mild symptoms like fever, sore throat and not eating.
"Many are getting admitted because their other medical problems are getting exacerbated where they're just getting dehydrated. Or some other medical problem becomes apparent like a cardiac issue."
So far, "we're not really seeing much in the way of primary viral pneumonia, which was driving (previous) admissions. I feel this is predominantly due to better immunity in the population due to vaccinations and past infections."
Pinsky added that "people are getting sick, but it's not likely that you're going to end up with something serious that would cause anything life-threatening, for the most part."
Pinsky noted the majority of Edward patients suffering from the virus had not received a COVID-19 bivalent vaccine that came out in September.
Currently, 59 counties in Illinois have high or medium levels of COVID-19 transmission, in contrast with 73 last week, the state recorded.
Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties are at medium level, while Will is at a low, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.