Illinois COVID: IL reports 37,048 new cases, 142 deaths; hospitalizations hit record high

Over 7,300 COVID patients are hospitalized across Illinois - the highest figure on record
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials reported 37,048 new COVID cases and 142 related deaths Thursday as hospitalizations across the state climbed to a new record high.

There have been 2,560,001 total COVID cases, including 28,946 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 16.2%, down from 16.7%.

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Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 257,206 new specimens for a total of 47,669,193 since the pandemic began.

As of Wednesday night, 7,380 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,177 patients were in the ICU and 670 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 19,838,302 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Wednesday, and 61.24% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 51,776.

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Data shows that as of Thursday, just under 23% of Illinois children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated against COVID-19.

A push is underway to get more of these younger, school-aged children their shots, but it's been a challenge for doctors who are struggling to get this age group vaccinated.

Juan DeLuna, 11, finally got the shot Thursday and was proud to show off his Band-Aid.

"Most of my friends got COVID and some of my teachers got COVID," he said. "That's why I wanted it."

DeLuna received his first dose at an Esperanza Health Center mass vaccination site on the Southwest Side, the same site that offered some of Chicago's first vaccines to 5 to 11-year-olds when it was approved at the beginning of November. Since then, it's been an uphill battle getting more kids here.

"We don't see a lot of 5 to 11-year-olds, there is still a lot of hesitancy with parents wanting to get their children vaccinated," said Liliana Acuna, who works at the Esperanza Health Center vaccination site.

The vaccine rate among 5 to 11-year-olds is lower than doctors had hoped at this point. Statewide, just 22.8% of younger kids are fully vaccinated. The Chicago average is a bit higher at 27.8%.

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"It's taking its time with this age group and we have definitely seen a drop in vaccination rates among this age group," said Dr. Tina Tan at Lurie Children's Hospital.

While omicron has motivated more adults to get their first dose, Tan said it's doing the opposite with children.

"One thing that is driving this is that people keep saying omicron is milder so kids don't get sick anyways," Tan said.

But Tan said unvaccinated kids can get very sick and die from COVID. Lurie has seen a major increase in hospitalizations in the past two weeks.

Increasing the rates among 5 to 11-year-olds is a big priority in neighborhoods like Little Village that are seeing high case numbers and positivity rates.

"One way to do that is getting vaccines into schools," 22nd Ward Ald. Michael Rodriguez said. "We are trying to decrease bureaucracy to get that done."

While public officials and doctors work on convincing more parents to get their 5 to 11-year-olds the shot, there are many parents with kids younger than 5 who are wondering when the vaccine will be available for their children. Tan said trials are ongoing, and it may not be ready until spring or early summer.

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