'We are in for a rough ride' says top health official of virus

Illinoisans urged to rethink holiday travel plans as hospitalizations mount

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By Jerry Nowicki

Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinoisans should stay home as much as possible, wear face coverings and rethink their Thanksgiving plans as hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise, state officials reiterated Monday. 

"We are in for a rough ride for the next three months or so," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, a LaGrange resident, said at a COVID-19 briefing Monday. "Just how bumpy it really gets depends on each of us. Let's hang in there together and be all in for Illinois."

She warned that Illinoisans should rethink Thanksgiving plans that include travel or mixing households and should consider virtual get-togethers and dropping off food at a family member's doorstep instead of gathering in person. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned that current hospitalization trends, if left to grow at the pace they have been for several weeks, could overwhelm the hospital system.

"If we wait to take action until our hospitals are full, it will be too late, and countless patients – COVID patients as well as those with all the other ailments and injuries that bring people to the hospital – will die unnecessary deaths, because there aren't enough beds or people to staff them," Pritzker said.

The calls came as hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased for the 22nd straight day as of Sunday night, setting a new pandemic high with 5,581 hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients. The average daily usage from Nov. 9 to Nov. 15 was 5,268, an increase of 30 percent from the week prior. 

As hospital bed usage continued to blow past previous pandemic highs, intensive care bed usage neared past highs as well, with 1,144 ICU beds in use by COVID-19 patients at the end of Sunday. 

That number had increased for 11 straight days, and the 1,002 beds used on average daily from Nov. 9-15 marked an increase of 25 percent from the previous week. The one-day usage was the highest since May 16. 

Ventilator usage for COVID-19 hit its highest point since June 3, up 32 percent from the week prior. 

Pritzker warned that reinforcements in terms of medical professionals from other states are not likely to arrive during this wave since the COVID-19 surge appears to be nationwide. 

"We can expect much worse to come if mitigation measures aren't followed leading into Thanksgiving," he said, noting the state continues to monitor the need for field hospitals. 

From Saturday to Monday, the state reported an average of 11,097 new cases among 96,604 tests reported each day, making for a three-day positivity rate of 11.5 percent. The rolling seven-day average case positivity rate decreased to 12.5 percent over that span. 

The state reported 275 deaths over the three-day period, bringing the death toll since the pandemic began to 10,779 among 585,248 confirmed and probable cases and more than 9.1 million test results reported.    

Another record-setting week locally

For the second consecutive week, Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside each posted record numbers of new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 for the seven day period ending on the morning of Nov. 17.

While there were no new deaths associated with the disease in any of the villages, one-week totals continued to be grim, with 152 new cases reported in Brookfield, 60 in Riverside and 34 in North Riverside.

The rate of new cases in the past two months has accelerated at a pace not seen previously on the local level. For example, from March 24 to Sept. 29, a period of 27 weeks, Brookfield reported 375 cases of COVID-19.

From Sept. 29 to Nov. 17 – in just seven weeks – the village reported 384 new cases.

A similar trend can be seen in Riverside, which saw 192 cases of COVID-19 from March 24 to Sept. 29. In the seven weeks that followed, the village reported 190 cases.

In North Riverside, it took 21 weeks for the village to record its first 91 cases of COVID-19. But, it has taken just five weeks for the village to record its most recent 94 cases.

Since the pandemic began, 759 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases have been reported for Brookfield, while Riverside has seen 382 and North Riverside 229.

Good news on vaccine front

Pritzker noted there was "wonderful news on the vaccine front" Monday as pharmaceutical company Moderna announced it had a vaccine with an early success rate nearing 95 percent. 

But he noted that vaccine candidate and one from Pfizer still must pass future phases relevant to their safety and efficacy before they are used. And even then, it could be well into 2021 before a vaccine becomes widely available. 

"We have real hope for possible widespread distribution by early spring," Pritzker said. "Still, that's months away. So we have to let that inspire us not to give up, and to take more precautions for ourselves and for our health care workers. Let's do all that we can to save lives now, so that more Illinoisans, more Americans will be here when the vaccine is here."

Bob Uphues contributed to this report.

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