Illinois COVID-19 hospitalizations near 10-month high

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 have jumped more than 26% in the last week alone, putting them on pace to hit numbers not seen since mid-February.

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CVS Pharmacy Manager Lillian Kong, 45, puts a band aid on Priyanka Reddy, 34, after vaccinating her with the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster after a news conference at a CVS pharmacy in the West Lawn neighborhood last month. Officials are urging more people to roll up a sleeve as cases rise.

Priyanka Reddy, 34, gets a COVID-19 booster at a CVS pharmacy in West Lawn in November.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Officials are urging Illinois residents to get up to date with their COVID-19 booster shots as temperatures dip and hospital admissions rise once again heading into the holiday season. 

Hospitals across the state were treating 1,509 COVID patients Thursday night, the highest number seen since Aug. 15 — and a figure that’s poised to hit a nearly 10-month high by next week. 

Admissions have jumped more than 26% in the last week alone, putting them on pace to hit numbers not seen since mid-February, when Illinois was on the way down from its worst surge of the pandemic. 

The situation isn’t as dire as it was this time last year, when about 2,500 COVID patients were hospitalized at the start of December 2021 — and it’s still well shy of the all-time high figure topping 7,300 in January. 

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But cases are rising in most of the state heading into its third COVID-19 winter, with 63 of Illinois’ 102 counties now at a medium or high transmission level as determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Cook County and most of the collar counties remain at the medium level, meaning indoor masking is recommended for the elderly and immunocompromised. Transmission is high in a dozen downstate counties, meaning masks are advised for all. 

COVID-19 transmission is considered low in counties marked green, medium in those marked yellow and high in those marked orange.

COVID-19 transmission is considered low in counties marked green, medium in those marked yellow and high in those marked orange.

Illinois Department of Public Health

“Our focus and priority remains avoiding that high COVID community level,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “This means preserving our hospital system from being overwhelmed with patients, while also protecting residents from the worst outcomes. Chicagoans can protect themselves and their families by getting their updated COVID-19 booster for everyone 5 and up and their seasonal flu shot for everyone 6 months and up.”

About 34 Chicagoans have been admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 on average each day over the last week, while about 366 people have received positive lab test results for the virus. 

Statewide, more than 2,900 Illinoisans are testing positive each day, a rate that has climbed by 50% since last month. That doesn’t include at-home tests. 

Fatal cases have remained relatively flat, with about eight Illinois lives lost to the virus each day over the last week. Illinois’ pandemic death toll has risen to 35,494. 

“Please continue to take all preventative measure to protect yourself, your family and friends, especially very young children and individuals over 65 who are most vulnerable to severe outcomes,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a statement. “These effective strategies include COVID-19 testing, especially if visiting someone at risk for severe disease; enhanced ventilation; good hand hygiene; staying home if sick; and getting up to date with both the COVID-19 bivalent booster and the flu shot.”

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and readily available at most pharmacies. 

The city is hosting a flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Wilbur Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave. It also offers free in-home vaccination appointments that can be arranged at chicago.gov/athome or (312) 746-4835. 

For more help finding a shot, visit vaccines.gov

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