Another year in the battle against COVID-19
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) – Illinois public health officials on Wednesday reported 21,098 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19. The IDPH has also reported 50 deaths in the past 24 hours. The 7-day rolling positivity rate now stands at 9.1%.
Our Capitol Hill office is taking a closer look at the effects of COVID-19 in Illinois throughout 2021.
Illinois had seen 970,590 cases of COVID-19 at the start of 2021. That number has now exceeded 2.1 million and there is again no end in sight.
You may remember the initial reopening plan for the state dubbed Restore Illinois. People watched closely to see when their area could move on to the next phase and move closer to a safe reopening.
Vaccines were already available to older people and healthcare workers across the country, and more people became eligible over the following months.
“Vaccination is essential to move forward, but it only works if we really use the critical resource,” Dr Ngozi Ezike said on January 11.
Illinois quickly moved to a tiered system based on test positivity rates, available intensive care beds, and the number of new COVID patients entering hospitals in each region. The state reached the bridging phase when 70% of people 65 and over were vaccinated, which helped increase the capacity of restaurants, bars and events.
Illinois finally transitioned to Phase 5 on June 11 when 50% of people 16 and older were vaccinated and the state experienced a significant drop in COVID-19 parameters. That didn’t last very long as the Delta variant brought back mask mandates for long-term care facilities and schools in August.
“Given the strong recommendation from the CDC, I had hoped that a state mask requirement in schools would not be necessary,” Governor JB Pritzker said on August 4. “But it is.”
The Pritzker administration then reinstated the indoor mask statewide mandate to deal with the surge in the delta variant. Soon, vaccine and testing requirements began for healthcare workers, school staff, and long-term care facilities.
Government employees in collective care facilities and daycare staff were then included in the vaccination mandate. However, the delta variant continues to increase in Illinois and now the omicron variant is raising new concerns.
Some across the state have stopped wearing masks due to fatigue from the pandemic. Yet the fight against COVID-19 is not over and Illinois officially keeps the mask mandate in place.
“It really kept the infections from skyrocketing,” Pritzker said on Monday. “It’s awful right now, but it would be a lot worse. Look at the states around us and how many people get sick, go to hospital, and die. “
5,471 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Illinois. This is the highest number of COVID patients we have seen in the hospital since December 2, 2020.
Some school districts are considering reverting to virtual learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, many parents and guardians are hopeful that their students can stay in classrooms in 2022.
Of course, COVID-19 mitigation measures continue to be politicized and the response to the pandemic will likely play out in the 2022 election. Senator Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) has fought against public health decisions of the Pritzker administration throughout the pandemic. Bailey, the current gubernatorial candidate against Pritzker, says the Democrat cannot force children to wear masks at school.
“The education of our children is a priority, not a political pawn. Our students deserve a quality in-person education where parental involvement is encouraged and masks are optional, ”Bailey said. “Springfield must remember that they are working for people, not for special interests.”
The positivity rate in Clay County, where Bailey lives, is now 14.48%. Despite the argument against children’s masks, Illinois has seen a slight increase in pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
Ezike explained on Monday that the number of children contracting COVID-19 will increase as more adults become infected.
“I hope it won’t be that bad,” Ezike said. “We no longer want to report a period of death and of course these pediatric deaths are particularly difficult to manage.”
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