ILLINOIS — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association are urging hospitals to postpone non-emergency surgeries as the state sets new records for daily coronavirus infections.
On Dec. 30 — the last day for which data was available — the state reported 30,386 new coronavirus cases, five times higher than the same day last month and more than double the previous daily record set amid last fall’s surge.
As of Christmas Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the highly contagious omicron variant accounted for nearly 59 percent of all new cases in the country — have previously slashed its estimates by nearly 50 percentage points.
State health officials expect the number of omicron infections to rise dramatically in the coming days, driven by holiday gatherings, and say the state’s hospitals could soon feel the strain.
“We are preparing for a continuing post-holiday surge, and with hospital staff already working so hard, I appreciate the work hospital leadership is doing to assure capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and procedures to ensure their ability to handle serious COVID cases and other emergencies without putting patients at risk,” Pritzker said in a statement. “To all Illinoisans: please understand that the nation is experiencing high COVID transmission rates, and some surgeries in Illinois will be postponed. We’re asking our residents to temporarily hold off on important medical care like tonsillectomies, bariatric surgeries and hernia repair. As we work to keep ICU beds open, I continue to applaud the efforts of our hospitals and healthcare workers across the state, who have been heroes for us all.”
Health officials said some hospitals have already delayed non-emergency procedures, and asked all hospitals to follow the state’s guidance on when to postpone elective surgeries and other procedures that can be rescheduled without risking harm to patients.
Officials said hospitals are using telehealth technology to free up resources and expand ICU capacity across the state. The governor has also extended waivers for out-of-state doctors and nurses to work in Illinois and is seeking federal assistance to address staffing shortages, according to a news release.
Health officials say getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks in public and social distancing remain critical measures in slowing the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 826,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“Hospitals continue to be on the front line of this fight, and are doing everything in their power to maintain access to healthcare for all patients. But we need your help,” said Sinai Chicago President and CEO Karen Teitelbaum. “Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid large gatherings. And please get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccination remains the best way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death.”
More than 7.7 million Illinoisans are vaccinated with 2 shots — about 60.5 percent of the state’s population. Just over 3 million boosters have been administered statewide, meaning only about a quarter of Illinoisans have adequate protection against omicron.
On Monday, 4,679 Illinoisans were hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, including 1,010 in intensive care and 565 on ventilators. Statewide, just 313 ICU beds were still open — not only for COVID patients, but also for victims of heart attacks, strokes, gunshots and all others.