Illinois ramps up effort to battle COVID surge
By Beth Hundsdorfer
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD - Local hospitals and health departments will get help from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to meet the healthcare demand during a COVID-19 surge, adding staffing to provide medical care and provide vaccines and testing.
The state will also help ramp up COVID-19 testing, now operating six days a week beginning Jan. 3 to increase availability.
“We are also increasing testing and continuing to distribute monoclonal antibodies, anti-viral pills and any treatments or personal protective equipment communities need,” Gov. JB Pritzker said during a news conference Monday.
“I will continue to do everything possible to protect all the people of this state, whatever your vaccine status. But what kind of year 2022 turns out to be depends on all of us doing what is best for all of us.”
Pritzker was on a call with President Joe Biden and the National Governors Association on Monday morning to discuss the response to the Omicron variant.
Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike confirmed that Illinois is seeing higher hospitalization rates.
The state is now averaging 500 hospital admissions a day due to COVID-19.
While Illinois was still battling the Delta variant of COVID-19, the Omicron variant was introduced a couple of weeks ago.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that the Omicron variant is the dominate strain of COVID-19 in the United States, with more than 73 percent of new cases attributable to the variant.
To protect from the COVID-19, harm reduction strategies will still need to be employed, Ezike said, like wearing masks, social distancing, hand-washing and staying away from large crowds.
“We have a vaccine that is highly effective at preventing severe illness and death,” Ezike said.
“Currently, we are seeing a demand for booster doses, but it is critically important for those who have yet to receive even one dose of vaccine to get vaccinated.”
The vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated, Ezike said.
Those most at risk are more than 65 years old; suffer from heart, liver or kidney disease; are immunocompromised or have diabetes.
Vaccine clinics will be held in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, Kane, St. Clair, McLean, Sangamon, Peoria, Winnebago, Jackson and Adams counties. Anyone age 12 older can get a first or second dose at these locations.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.