COVID-19: Illinois in for ‘rocky next few months’
CHICAGO — Illinoisans could be headed into a difficult winter as COVID-19 cases continue to spike, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.
Pritzker reiterated during his daily coronavirus update the the number of daily cases has increased by more than 500% since April and hospitalizations have more than doubled in some regions. And while there is light at the end of the tunnel, when Illinois will emerge from the darkness is anyone’s guess.
“Nobody that I’ve talked to thinks this is ending in four to six weeks,” the governor said. “It’s going to be a rocky next few months. Even before winter, we are already seeing the consequences of significantly rising case rates and hospitalizations across the state.”
Illinois saw a little over 2,000 cases per day in April, the height of the pandemic’s first wave. Labs were processing about 50,000 tests per day back then, and the test-positivity rate hovered around 3% for most of the summer. As of Monday, about 100,000 tests are administered every day, and the positivity rate has exceeded 14%.
Pritzker said those who refuse to get flu shots will likely exacerbate the situation as winter approaches, leaving hospitals to deal with an influx of flu patients and those with COVID symptoms.
“People who do that, they end up in the hospital,” Pritzker said. “There will be people who don’t follow the mitigations, which is awful. Please follow the mitigations–for everybody’s sake. So we can try to limit the damage that this COVID storm is causing.”
Hospital are not overwhelmed at the moment but they’re on their way. Emergency rooms are often full and front-line workers are stretched. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 11,632 new positive and probable infections Monday, including 37 additional deaths. As of Sunday, there were 5,581 people hospitalized with COVID-19 Of those, 1,144 patients were in the ICU and 514 were on ventilators.
“We have to reverse the course we are currently on,” Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We’re in for a rough ride for the next three months or so. Just how bumpy it really gets depends on each of us.”
While she stopped short of saying people should cancel their holiday plans, Ezike said changes are necessary to flatten the current curve.
“We’ll celebrate them,” she said. “But let’s celebrate them virtually. People who love to cook, cook food and leave it at their doorstep for people to pick it up to still enjoy your culinary expertise.”
Ezike’s statements echoed those she made last week when she said Thanksgiving meals should be limited to single households. The state issued a travel advisory, too. Officials say residents should stay home as much as possible, except to attend school and for essential goods and services.
Pritzker didn’t field questions about another stay-at-home order Monday, but said last week he could issue one in “coming days” if the situation continues to worsen. What would be affected by a new order isn’t known, although it isn’t expected to mirror what the state saw last spring when schools, theaters, retail, salons, and gyms were forced to close along with indoor bar and restaurant service.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Illinois could see a peak in the current wave of infections in late January without mitigations. With masking and social distancing, things could start tapering off around Christmas, the model shows.
As of Monday, there have been 585,248 positive and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and 10,779 virus-related deaths.