Chicago hospitals brace for post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge following holiday travel weekend

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago area hospitals bracing for a post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 spike following the long holiday weekend.

"We are concerned that there will be a ramp-up in cases," said Dr. Bala Hota at Rush University Medical Center. "The incubation period to develop symptoms is about 5-7 days, so it would be mid next week where people might have some symptoms of the illness and that would be when we would expect more cases to come into the hospital.

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Health officials said Thanksgiving travel numbers are a clue that the positivity rate could start climbing, yet again.

AAA predicted more than 50 million people had plans to travel for the holiday. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is just one that had a steady stream of travelers as well.

"If there is going to be a spike, it will be sometime late next week through about 2-3 weeks after that," Dr. Hota said. "Even though it is steady about 7-10 days we are going to see a real ramp up in admissions. We are prepared for that."

Right now, the statewide positivity rate in Illinois remains just above 12%, but with less people getting COVID-19 tests over the holiday weekend, the data could be misleading.

"Even though it has been somewhat stable, that translates to quite a bit of disease and it also shows that there is pretty significant spread in the community," he added.

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Just in the past three weeks, the coronavirus hospitalizations at Rush have tripled.

"What we are seeing now is anywhere from 10-25 admissions per day," Dr. Hota said.

Many of those patients are now in the ICU.

Still, doctors are asking people to practice social distancing and monitor their symptoms to avoid another surge.

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"[In] December, we could see a decline in cases but it is dependent on what we do -- If we wear masks, wash hands, and distance," Dr. Hota pointed out.

If you did go to a gathering, monitor for symptoms and limit contact with others until you have a COVID-19 test result.
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