Southern Illinois has seen such a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, the region now appears to meet Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines for reinstating mitigations to slow the spread of the virus.
But it’s not happening. Instead, state health officials are hoping new indoor mask recommendations and widespread vaccine availability will be enough to blunt the latest virus surge.
State data shows the region that encompasses the far southern tip of Illinois, which includes Carbondale and Mt. Vernon, only had 10 of 84 intensive care beds available. That 12% availability, combined with rising cases and overall hospitalizations, would appear to qualify for the return of restrictions such as capacity limits on bars, restaurants and gatherings, under IDPH’s own guidelines. “The previous mitigation plans were in place before the vaccine was widely available,” IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold told WGN. “The best way to prevent the spread of COVID is vaccination and IDPH continues to encourage those who have not done so to get vaccinated. The vaccine is widely available and free to everyone.”
“The most important tool we have right now are vaccines,” Lightfoot tweeted Sunday as the massive Lollapalooza music festival prepared to wrap-up in Grant Park amid questions about why she allowed the concerts to proceed despite rising case counts.
The reality is, while Covid-related hospitalizations have more than doubled statewide since July 1, Covid patients only represent 4% of the total number of people hospitalized. Covid patients comprise 9% of occupied intensive care beds in the state. State health data show 977 Covid patients were hospitalized Sunday, an increase from the pandemic low of 380 on July 4 but a far cry from the pandemic peak of 6,175 Covid-related hospitalizations reported Nov. 20, 2020.
Another important metric closely monitored by city and state officials is mortality. Chicago is now averaging just one death per day from Covid-related illness. Most days Illinois is seeing a statewide Covid death number in the single digits.
Unlike other states currently experiencing isolated shortages of hospital space to treat the sick, Illinois has a relatively high vaccination rate. Seventy-three percent of Illinois residents 12-years-old and older have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Fifty-seven percent are fully vaccinated. As news of the highly contagious Delta variant spreads, many states including Illinois are seeing an uptick in vaccine interest. An average of 27,396 vaccine doses were administered per day in the last week in Illinois, up from a summer low of 16,423 doses per day in early July.
The number of fully vaccinated people becoming infected – let alone hospitalized – with the virus remains extremely low.
“When it comes to breakthrough cases, 99.9% of vaccinated Chicagoans have not been hospitalized,” said Chicago Public Health director Dr. Allison Arwady. State health officials report just under 98% of Covid-related deaths since Jan. 1 have been among the unvaccinated.