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COVID | STATE

Watch now: COVID surge prompts multiple state responses; McLean County adds 1,070 cases

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asks residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19 to share their experiences with others who have not yet done so.

SPRINGFIELD — A continuing sharp spike in COVID-19 cases being driven by the omicron variant has pushed the state’s hospital capacity to its limits and is prompting the state to bring in additional health care workers from other states and countries.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that more than 2,000 additional health care workers have been deployed throughout the state, including 919 in hospitals hit hard by the surge, with another 552 to arrive within the next several days.

As of Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health was reporting 7,219 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, down slightly from the record 7,353 who were hospitalized on Tuesday. Another 271 people in the state had died of the disease since Monday.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives an update on the surge in COVID-19 cases during a news conference Wednesday in Chicago. 

“We have never had this many COVID patients in the hospital at any point in the pandemic. Not in spring of 2020; not in the winter of 2020,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said, noting that the previous pandemic record was 6,175, set in November 2020.

Over the past seven days, more than 227,000 new cases have been confirmed in Illinois out of 1.9 million tests performed, for a seven-day case positivity rate of 12%.

McLean County is also seeing a spike in coronavirus patients, with the health department reporting 1,070 new cases since Tuesday.

Despite the spike, the county's seven-day rolling positivity rate dipped slightly to 19.2% from Tuesday's reported 20.9%. 

The county has reported 38,459 total cases of the virus and 320 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

No one should pay for COVID-19 test, Illinois officials warn

Fifty McLean County residents were hospitalized with COVID as of Wednesday, MCHD reported, with 66 total patients hospitalized in the county due to the virus.

County hospitals' intensive care units remained at 92% full, and 99% of all total beds are in use, MCHD reported.

Pritzker said the state is taking several actions to bolster its health care workforce, such as allowing out-of-state health care providers to continue practicing in Illinois with expanded permissions to care for all patients, not just COVID patients.

In addition, doctors trained in other countries have been given permission to provide assistance to licensed physicians in Illinois. And out-of-state providers, including physicians, nurses and mental health providers, are being allowed to provide telehealth services to patients in Illinois if they have a pre-existing provider-patient relationship.

On Tuesday, Pritzker issued an executive order spelling out protocols that schools now need to follow when a student or school employee tests positive for COVID.

Consistent with the latest guidance from the CDC, the order requires infected individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, to be excluded from school premises for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10 days following the onset of symptoms or the date of their test.

Schools also must exclude students or employees who come in close contact with an infected person for a minimum of five days after their exposure, and those individuals must continue to wear a mask at all times around others, including when outdoors, for an additional five days after they return to school.

Additionally, House and Senate leaders in the General Assembly announced Wednesday that they were canceling in-person session days next week, although committees will continue to meet remotely.

The Illinois Department of Corrections announced it was pausing all inmate transfers into state facilities from county jails as it responds to COVID outbreaks in IDOC facilities.

A high demand for COVID testing continues in McLean County; testing facilities can be found at health.mcleancountyil.gov.

The testing site at the Interstate Center in Bloomington tested 487 people on Wednesday, with an average wait time of five to 10 minutes, according to Reditus Laboratories, which operates the site.

Vaccination clinics this week are set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Grossinger Motors Arena and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Activity and Recreation Center in Normal. Clinics will be held next week on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Grossinger Motors Arena.

Registration is available at health.mcleancountyil.gov or by calling the MCHD COVID-19 Call Center between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 309-888-5600.

Additional vaccination locations can be found at vaccines.gov.

Approximately 252,544 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in McLean County and 58.67% of the population is fully vaccinated. Statewide, 61.17% of Illinoisans are fully vaccinated.

Pantagraph reporter Sierra Henry contributed to this report.

Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.

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