By GRACE KINNICUTT
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – As omicron surges across the state, Gov. JB Pritzker warned that hospitalizations are about as high as they were last winter before vaccines were widely available. About 85 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state are unvaccinated.
“It is frustrating and tragic that two years into the pandemic, with multiple widely available and free, life-saving vaccines, that we are once again in this horrible position,” Pritzker said.
The Illinois Public Health Department reported 6,294 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Jan. 2, the most since the pandemic began. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, IDPH director, said an average of 550 people are being admitted to hospitals each day.
With hospital beds for other emergencies “frighteningly limited,” Pritzker joined the Illinois Health and Hospital Association in urging health care providers to postpone non-emergency surgeries and procedures as needed to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 cases.
“This surge is testing our health resources yet again,” A.J. Wilhelmi, CEO and president of the IHA said.
Though hospitals have become accustomed to managing bed capacity and the needs of COVID-19 patients over the course of the pandemic, Wilhelmi said the best way for people to provide relief for health care workers and facilities is to get vaccinated and boosted.
More than 19 million vaccines have been administered with about 60 percent of Illinois residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Pritzker fears the rise in COVID-cases will continue to increase as the virus incubates in those who were exposed during the holidays. He urged individuals to get tested as soon as possible.
Pritzker also announced that starting this week, free community-based testing sites will expand operations to six days a week. There is a full list of site locations and times on IDPH’s website.
(Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.)