COVID-19 filling hospital beds across Illinois, as risk level improves to ‘medium’ in Cook County

Hospital admissions have more than doubled since mid-April, following a steady increase in cases since the early spring — a trend playing out in most other parts of the country, too.

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Nurse Alma Abad checks on a patient with COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side in January.

Nurse Alma Abad checks on a patient with COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side in January.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Federal health officials say the COVID-19 risk level has fallen from “high” to “medium” in Chicago and suburban Cook County — but across Illinois, hospitals are admitting the most patients they’ve seen with the virus in almost five months. 

And residents are still being urged to mask up when gathering indoors in more than two-thirds of counties statewide, including most of the Chicago area. 

The latest troubling numbers were released Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which reported 1,309 people hospitalized with the coronavirus, the most since Feb. 21, when the state was subsiding from its worst resurgence of the pandemic. At least 149 of the latest patients are receiving intensive care, the most since the first week of March. 

Hospital admissions have more than doubled since mid-April, following a steady increase in cases since the early spring — a trend playing out in most other parts of the country, too. 

Nearly 4,000 Illinoisans have tested positive on average each day over the past week, down from an average of more than 6,000 in mid-May, but still about four times higher than the case rate in April. Those figures don’t include at-home tests. 

New COVID-19 cases by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

COVID deaths have remained relatively low, though they typically trail several weeks behind rises in cases and hospitalizations. The state lost about seven residents per day to the virus over the last week. 

Cases stayed relatively flat in Chicago over the past week with 748 residents testing positive per day, while hospitalizations dipped by 30% with an average of 21 admissions per day. That helped Cook County end a two-week streak of being flagged at the “high” community transmission rating by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as calculated through a combination of case and hospitalization rates. 

Even at the “medium” rating, face coverings are still advised for people around others indoors. 

“This is not a green light to forget about COVID-19,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “Rather, it’s more a flashing yellow, to continue to be cautious, be aware, be alert, and not to let your guard down.”

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, pictured at a November 2021 news conference. COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising in Illinois.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, pictured at a November 2021 news conference. COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising in Illinois.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Transmission is still considered high in 28 counties, including DuPage and Lake. Kane and Kankakee counties are the only ones in the metro area considered “low.” Statewide, 43 remain at the “medium” level. 

“With 71 counties in Illinois rated at Medium or High Community Level for COVID-19 by the CDC, the majority of counties remain at elevated risk” IDPH acting Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Amaal Tokars said in a statement. “We urge everyone to protect themselves by making sure they are up-to-date with vaccines and booster shots.”

Color-coded community level risk map of Illinois based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data as of Friday.

Color-coded community level risk map of Illinois based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data as of Friday.

Illinois Department of Public Health

About 76% of the state population have gotten at least one vaccine dose, with 69% completing the initial series and 53% receiving at least their first booster.

While experts say the latest Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are the most infectious yet, all the approved vaccines have proven highly effective at preventing severe illness. All residents 6 months and older are eligible for a shot. 

The Cook County Department of Public Health is offering $100 Visa gift cards to residents who roll up a sleeve through July 15. Book an appointment at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov

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