Illinois is hiring more than 2,000 health workers to help staff overworked hospitals; ‘It’s too soon to tell’ if latest COVID surge peaks, says top doctor

Chicago (CBS) — With a COVID-19 hospital in Illinois still at the pandemic’s highest point, the government is deploying more than 2,000 additional healthcare workers to help meet the huge demand at JB Pritzker overwhelmed hospitals.

Pritzker said Tuesday that the state is bringing in 2,048 contracted healthcare workers to help relieve pressure on hospitals amid the latest surge in the pandemic driven by the virus Omicron variant.

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The Governor said that 919 of those healthcare workers are already helping staff hospitals that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 cases, with another 552 reaching hospitals by next Friday.

The state has also created “COVID response teams” in hospitals and other health facilities to respond quickly in case of crisis, with 237 health workers already on the ground, and another 340 arriving in the next 10 days.

More personnel are being made available to hospitals requesting federal aid, including 12 healthcare workers helping Rockford hospitals, to support the assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

According to Pritzker, out-of-state healthcare workers have also been able to continue working in Illinois during the pandemic to help treat patients of all kinds, and doctors who have received training overseas are now licensed in Illinois health facilities. Can provide assistance to receiving physicians.

“With unprecedented patients being hospitalized, we must do all we can to keep our healthcare workers and institutions operating and available for all those in need of medical assistance. I encourage everyone to help. The most important thing you can do right now is to get vaccinated, promote, wear a mask to stop the spread,” Pritzker said.

The governor said, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, most people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

“This current wave of Covid is sickening more people than ever before in the pandemic, and the vast majority of serious illnesses and deaths are among non-vaccinated people,” he said.

Steps to boost hospital staff were made by Illinois Director of Public Health Dr. Nozi Ezik said the state had “broken” COVID-19 hospitalization records in recent days.

As of earlier this month, Illinois had a record single day of COVID-19 hospitalizations in November of 2020 at 6,175. The state crossed that record for the first time on January 2, and has since registered a record six new hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday night, a total of 7,219 people had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, the second-highest in a single day, just behind the previous day’s record of 7,353. Ezike said more than 80% of those COVID-19 patients have not been vaccinated.

“Unfortunately, right now, today, hospitals are bearing the brunt,” Ezike said. “Every hospital bed was occupied by someone with COVID who hadn’t been vaccinated, potentially that hospitalization could have been avoided, and we’re making it difficult for people who have had a heart attack.” Those who end up in a car accident have their appendix burst, a cancer-related complication. Any type of medical emergency, we are jeopardizing our ability to care for those who need them.”

As of Wednesday, only 18% of the state’s hospital beds were available, including only 9% of ICU beds in Illinois.

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The issue is not the physical space shortage of actual beds in hospitals, but the staffing shortage, with large numbers of healthcare workers who have left the profession during the pandemic due to overwork. In addition, frequent exposure to COVID-19 patients has led to many employees being isolated or quarantined if they become infected, further reducing the number of staff available to treat patients.

“Imagine yourself as one of those nurses or doctors who are going to the fifteenth patient room to treat someone who can be stopped. Our health workers are on both ends to take care of COVID patients and There are also candles burning in the middle, who could have avoided hospitalization if they were up to date on their vaccines,” said Ezic.

Ezik said less than one percent of the 7.7 million people in Illinois who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have been hospitalized after contracting the virus; Proving that vaccination is the best defense against ending up in the hospital with COVID-19.

“With record COVID-related hospitalizations here and across the country, the most important strategy we are following is to make vaccinations, boosters and masks as widely available and used as possible,” Pritzker said.

Meanwhile, Ezik said there have been signs in recent days that Illinois may finally be turning the corner on the latest surge in the pandemic, though he said it’s “too soon to tell” if new cases eventually peak in Illinois.

“Of course, we would all love to report that good news. We know we have to continue, and promote, masking and vaccination, and we want to get there soon,” she said.

After setting daily case records at least four times over the past two weeks, Illinois has an average of 32,501 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the past week, the highest daily case count during the pandemic.

However, new cases are not rising as fast as they were in the most recent surge. New cases have increased by almost 30% in the last week, compared to a 51% increase from a week ago.

The statewide seven-day average positivity rate, at 12%, recently reached 15.2% on Friday, the highest ever during the pandemic.

Azike said public health officials need to see a steady decline in cases before they can say the latest surge is at its peak.

“You really want to see a steady decline. I will be the first to announce this when we can say this with great confidence. Crossing my fingers and toes, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Azik said.

Like new COVID-19 cases, the latest surge in hospitalizations is not climbing as rapidly as before, with hospitalizations up 5.5% in the past week, compared to a week earlier There was a 25% increase in enrollment.

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Deaths are still rising, as Illinois reported the most COVID-19 deaths in a single day in more than a year, with 144 new deaths on Wednesday. This is the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day in Illinois since January 7, 2021, when there were 174 deaths. Illinois had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day on December 2, 2020, when the state reported 238 fatalities.