Illinois hospital systems nearing a 'breaking point,' administrator says
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois public health officials reported 14,612 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 along with 168 deaths Thursday.
The total number of cases in Illinois now stands at 621,383, with a total of 11,178 deaths. The number of deaths reported Thursday is the most since 191 deaths were announced on May 13.
Over a 24-hour period, officials said the state processed 113,447 tests. In total there have been 9,472,674 specimens tested since the start of the pandemic in Illinois.
The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from Nov. 12-18, is 14%.
As of Wednesday night, 6,037 people in Illinois were reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 1,192 patients were in the ICU with COVID-19 and 587 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
On Thursday, Northwestern Medicine joined the growing list of health systems postponing some elective surgeries as the number of available hospital beds dwindle.
"This is a horrible situation," Gov. JB Pritzker said. "I mean, we all have the ability to bring those hospitalization numbers down going forward, to protect our hospital workers."
The state surpassed 6,000 people in Illinois hospitals on Thursday, a new record and nearly double the number at the start of the month. And another sobering figure: 168 new deaths. Only two days of the pandemic have been deadlier.
In response to the crisis, 100 leading health systems - including Rush University Medical Center, the University of Chicago and Northwestern - launched a social media and public messaging campaign urging people to use face coverings.
"Our hospitals and staff, including hospitals around the state and country, are close to a breaking point," said Dr. Kamaljit Singh, with NorthShore University HealthSystem. "We need everyone to understand that this battle will be won outside the hospital, not in it."
A week before Thanksgiving, the CDC advised Americans to avoid traveling for the holiday and to limit gatherings to people in your household. Officials say even if you test negative, it's not a free pass to celebrate with others.
"That only works if you haven't exposed yourself to anyone in the 14 days from when you got tested to when you meet up with your friends and family," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
Despite the rise in hospitalizations and deaths, Illinois' test positivity rate fell slightly for the fourth day in a row. The governor said if that continues, it could be a sign that we're starting to slow that upward trend.
To travel or not to travel? On a U.S. map increasingly covered in red, health officials across the city and state have been definitive in their answer.
"If you've not cancelled your Thanksgiving plans, right now is the time to be having that tough conversation with friends and family," said Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the Chicago Dept. of Public Health.
The CDC joined in Thursday, issuing a recommendation that Americans not travel this Thanksgiving Day weekend. But even as many do reconsider their plans, 50 million others are going ahead, with road travel expected to be just slightly lower than last year.
"There is some displacement going on," said Nick Jarmusz, with AAA. "Some of the folks who might normally travel by air and are still planning on traveling are displacing and planning to drive instead."
Air travel, however is taking a big hit. Because while airlines are increasing their capacity as demand goes up over the holiday, overall numbers are expected to be down by around 50%. Only 122,000 Illinoisans are expected to travel by air compared to nearly 254,000 last year.
"It may be even more than that as the situation with the pandemic gets a little worse and maybe people who were planning on going change their mind," Jarmusz said.
For those who have not flown since the start of the pandemic, there are noticeable changes in place both at the airports and onboard. From a nearly contactless security check-in with TSA agents in full PPE, to enhanced cleaning and filtration systems on all airplanes, which do require a mask to be worn in flight.
"Health and safety is a shared responsibility," said Roger Dow, with the U.S. Travel Association. "The travel industry's focus is door-to-door travel, how you're going to get there."
And while not traveling over Thanksgiving, Peter Hurley and his wife just got home from Hawaii on Thursday. His thoughts?
"I'd like to say not to travel, but you have to try it," Hurley said. "You can't shut down everything."
For those who are traveling - whether it be by air or road - industry experts recommend people check restrictions at their destination. And remember, even with a much lower volume than usual, Wednesday will be the busiest travel day of the weekend, so plan accordingly.
The new Tier 3 restrictions aim to limit gatherings and encourage residents to stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus. The entire state enters Tier 3 mitigation Friday at 12:01 a.m.
"Tier 3 boils down to this: if you don't need to do it, don't," Pritzker said.
The new Tier 3 restrictions close gaming and casinos, theaters, banquet halls and event spaces, cultural institutions like museums, prohibit indoor fitness classes and group sporting activities, and call on all workplaces to have as many employees work from home as possible.
"This is not a stay-at-home order, but the best way for us to avoid a stay at home order is to stay home," Pritzker said.
"I urge people to turn their frustration and their anger into something positive instead of trying to buck the mitigations can we all just follow them, acknowledging that these are what are needed to get back to some sense of normal," Dr. Ezike said.
Bars and restaurants remain limited to outdoor service, pickup and delivery only. Grocery stores can only operate at 50% capacity, gyms can only be open at 25% capacity with reservations, hotels are limited to registered guests, salons and other personal care services can only operate at 25% capacity, pharmacies at 50% capacity, non-essential retail at 25% capacity, and 10 person gathering limits are in place for outdoor sports and recreation.
And while decisions about schools will still be made locally the state is suspending indoor group sports, including IHSA.
"Right now, this virus has backed us into a corner, and we are left making insanely difficult and weighty decisions," Ezike said.
Already struggling retailers will be limited to 25% capacity, including big box stores with a grocery section. Traditional grocers are allowed to continue operating at 50% capacity.
"We think the governor's announcement strikes the right balance amidst a very difficult situation," said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. "Obviously, we would hope that everyone was open and doing business as normal, but that's just not the situation we find ourselves in."
Event venues are scrambling to reschedule weddings and holiday parties. Some of those events were set to happen this weekend.
"It's scary," said Tracy Opel, with Biagio Events & Catering. "This is my career. This is my livelihood."
Celebrations have been put on hold once again at banquet halls starting Friday.
"We keep getting shut down," Opel said. "We keep losing our business. We keep stopping events. We keep postponing events."
Bowling alleys were also hoping to be spared from another round of COVID restrictions.
"This is not the way I ever wanted to end it, I'm 65 years old," Timber Lanes proprietor Robert Kuhn said. "I'm at the point of retirement, but I'm not ready to retire yet. I still want to be involved in this business. It's hard.
Kuhn is trying to keep the ball rolling on his bowling alley beyond the pandemic.
"We can't even think about what we're going to do in the future because we don't know," Kuhn said.
Anticipating another mandatory closure of theaters, Comedy Sportz Chicago hasn't re-opened since March. But they still have been keeping their audience entertained.
"We have been virtual since March, so it is not terribly different for us personally," said Renee Ross, executive director at Comedy Sportz Chicago.
Comedy Sportz Chicago said their plan has always been to reopen when it's safe to do so.
The deaths reported Thursday include:
- Bureau County: 1 male 60s, 1 female 90s
-Champaign County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
-Christian County: 1 female 70s
-Cook County: 1 female 30s, 1 male 40s, 1 female 50s, 4 males 50s, 6 males 60s, 6 females 70s, 3 males 70s, 3 females 80s, 3 males 80s, 5 females 90s, 3 males 90s
-Cumberland County: 1 female 90s
-DeWitt County: 1 female 80s
-DuPage County: 2 males 60s, 3 females 70s, 2 males 70s, 4 females 80s, 2 males 80s, 1 female 90s
-Effingham County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s
-Greene County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
-Jackson County: 1 female 90s
-Kane County: 1 female 50s, 2 males 70s, 4 males 80s, 2 females 90s
- Kankakee County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s
-Kendall County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 90s
-Knox County: 2 females 80s
- Lake County: 2 males 60s, 1 male 70s, 2 females 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 2 male 90s
-LaSalle County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
-Lee County: 1 male 70s
-Livingston County: 1 male 80s
-Macon County: 3 males 60s, 2 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
-Madison County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 2 females 90s, 1 male 90s
-Marion County: 1 female 70s
-McDonough County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
-McHenry County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s, 3 females 80s, 3 males 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
-McLean County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
-Morgan County; 1 male 80s
-Moultrie County: 1 male 70s
-Ogle County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
- Peoria County: 2 females 90s
-Perry County: 1 male 80s
-Pike County: 1 female 80s
-Randolph County: 1 male 80s
-Rock Island County: 1 male 70s
-Sangamon County: 1 male 60s, 2 males 70s, 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s
-St. Clair County: 1 male 80s
-Stephenson County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 80s, 2 females 90s
-Tazewell County: 1 male 50s, 2 females 60s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
-Vermilion County: 1 male 40s, 1 male 60s, 2 females 70s
- Wabash County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 90s
-Wayne County: 1 male 70s
-White County: 1 male 80s
-Whiteside County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s, 1 female 100+
-Will County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s
-Williamson County: 1 male 70s
- Winnebago County: 1 male 50s, 2 males 80s
- Woodford County: 1 male 90s
Free COVID-19 testing will be available at the following mobile sites, regardless of symptoms, insurance or immigration status:
Additionally, the Will County Health Department's Community Health Center has COVID-19 testing Tuesday and Thursday this week at the Lewis University by the fieldhouse at 1 University Pkwy in Romeoville from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.