As COVID-19 cases jump, hospital bed numbers in Illinois are not encouraging

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With deaths and infection in Illinois climbing from the COVID-19 pandemic, data analysis by the ABC7 I-Team has determined that the state may face a critical shortage of hospital beds.

At last count there were about 36,000 hospital beds approved for use in Illinois.

According to the numbers, if nearly 2% of Illinois' population was to get sick all at the same time, there wouldn't be enough beds for those requiring hospitalization.

In Cook County, if 5% of the population got sick at once, not all of those needing hospital beds could get one. At that level, the number needing hospitalization in Cook County would be more than the entire capacity of the state.

Gov. JB Pritzker discussed his hospital bed concerns on Thursday, especially when non-coronavirus patients have to be treated as well, such as those with heart attacks and other critical illnesses.

Medical experts say that the state's hospital system could be easily overwhelmed by a sudden, sustained surge in serious COVID-19 cases.

State officials now say they are looking at reopening hospitals that have closed, a process that will involve the Illinois National Guard, and then having to find healthcare personnel to staff them.

At the same time, existing hospitals need supplies right now-or will-including masks and other personal protective gear for doctors, nurses and staff. And they are all asking for help.

Doctors, health care experts and hospitals are begging for donations from individuals who may have bought protective face masks for themselves. They request that people with even a small amount of face masks donate them to medical professionals who desperately need them. The Illinois Health and Hospital Association put out an emergency request for masks to dentists, veterinarians and construction companies for respirators and masks on Thursday.

Even as state and private labs were in a race against time and resources to test potential COVID-19 victims, the I-Team found that some foreign profiteers were playing a dangerous game.

On Thursday the I-Team learned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered counterfeit home testing kits for COVID-19 and other illnesses coming into the country at the O'Hare global mail center.

Federal authorities say there currently are no home testing kits available for novel coronavirus, now at pandemic levels. If you see one online or are offered one, they say don't buy it.

ABC7 I-Team analysis was based on the latest reported available data and projected figures from virus spread in China. These are some of the databases and sites we used for our reporting:

Illinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board

US Census Bureau's 2018 Population Estimates

JAMA Study on Lessons from Coronavirus Outbreak in China
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