Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike are holding daily COVID-19 press briefings as cases and hospitalizations in Illinois reach record highs. Read and listen to the latest update from the governor’s office on new cases, phased re-opening and closings of different regions and the state’s ongoing pandemic response. You can watch the most recent press briefings at 2:30pm every day here on Illinois Newsroom.
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Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the COVID-19 update for Wednesday, November the 18th. The last two days, I’ve showed you the severity of the situation in our hospitals, which currently are averaging 5561 patients in the hospital battling COVID-19 739, more than the highest average that we ever saw last spring. I’ve shown you how the rate of increase in hospitalizations, as well as our case numbers has hastened from a linear rate to now an exponential rate of growth. And I’ve shown you the disturbing hospital capacity issues that Illinois specific modeling indicates that we could have without intervention. That’s a problem for all of us. Because it’s not just COVID-19 patients who need hospital beds, and the expert care of doctors and nurses, cancer patients, those injured in car accidents, expectant mothers, victims of heart attacks and strokes. When we let our hospitals get overrun or even close to it. It is all of us who suffer. Whether because of conspiracy theories right wing political ideology, or naivete, too many people still seem to think that COVID-19 is a hoax, or that a disease that is killing 1500 Americans per day and isn’t and sorry, 1500 Americans per day and rising isn’t worth any effort to stop. Remember last spring when hospital workers were loaded with gifts of free pizza and cheers at the grocery stores and pots and pans banging in unison at eight o’clock at night. Well, hospital leaders tell me that that’s all come to a grinding halt.
Now healthcare workers are experiencing verbal assaults by people who come to the hospital suffering from COVID-19. Since last spring, the divisive and misleading rhetoric of the outgoing President of the United States seems to have implanted a false narrative in the minds of a loud minority of Illinoisans doctors and nurses tell me that some people who come into emergency rooms with covid, sometimes struggling to breathe, are screaming at hospital workers about how the disease is a political hoax or some sort of hospital profit scheme. It’s beyond tragic for all involved, and the accusations and strange notions are just not true. All of their false narrative has been proven untrue. I’m most concerned at the moment for our health care heroes who take the brunt of this and seem to have forgotten seem to have been forgotten rather by the good people who cared about them so visibly last spring. nurses and nurses assistants are once again pulling double shifts. respiratory therapists are back to working increasingly long hours to keep people alive in the ICU. Doctors are donning and doffing pee pee all day, and all night. janitors and cafeteria workers who get paid the least still come to work in a dangerous environment day in and day out. Just like police and firefighters, our healthcare workers risked their lives each day walking into the face of danger.
They still deserve to be hailed as heroes. So if you know a hospital or healthcare worker, find a way to do something special for them. Or even just say thank you when you see them on the street, or in your neighborhood. Each of them are just as much the hero today as they were last spring. COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death in Illinois, behind heart disease and cancer. Not only that, between March and October COVID-19 took more lives than the next two highest causes, strokes and accidents combined. The bulk of COVID-19 impact on the people of our state came as you would expect between March and June of this year. Over the summer as cases positivity rates, hospitalizations fell. So two deaths from COVID-19. Unfortunately, the virus is back with a vengeance. There’s a significant increase in the number of people losing their lives to COVID-19 amidst this current surge in In August, we were losing on average 14 people per day to this horrible disease. Today, that number is 83. As of today, we’ve lost 11,014 Illinoisans to this virus. More than 1000 people in the last two weeks alone. That includes 140 reported in just the last 24 hours, another hundred and 40 sets of families and friends searching for a way to grieve in this terrible trap, and the same disease that stole their loved one’s life from them, now won’t allow them to gather with all who grieve with them. To all who have lost someone this year. Please know that the good people of Illinois grieve with you may the memories of all that we’ve lost before a blessing. Early on in this pandemic, it would be forgivable to think of COVID-19 as only a problem for the nation’s denser and more globally connected cities. But as we’ve been saying all along this virus knows no boundaries, and has never given much thought to county lines. That’s become exceptionally clear this fall, as our rural and small town counties are seeing a per capita death rate twice that of our highly populated counties.
This is the trend that’s being mirrored all across the country. broken out even further, we are seeing national death rates in rural counties that are more than three times as high as the nation’s largest metros. I want to bring this conversation back to this slide. Because at the end of the day, with all the grief that our state has endured, with the loss of life, we still have a chance to prevent more of it. Models projected without additional mitigations daily COVID-19 deaths would at least match the previous spring wave and could even rise up to four to five times that level. a risk that grows as hospitals become increasingly filled by more patients. And as more of our heroic health care workers get sick, leading to staffing shortages.
Without new interventions, projections show that between 17,040 5000 additional deaths in Illinois would occur between now and march 1 of 2021. We can’t let that happen. And we already know exactly how to save thousands of lives. Stay home when you can avoid gathering where a mass Keep your distance get your flu shot. Every day that we take action to stop the spread is another day that we give to scientists and doctors to figure out new and better treatments, new technologies and new vaccines. Just today we saw another step forward with the FDA emergency use authorization of the first at home COVID-19 test. Which bodes well for even more and better testing down the line. We can get through this. We know how. So let’s use the tools that we have. And remember the best way through this is working together. Thank you. And with that I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike
Good afternoon. I still hear people saying that COVID-19 isn’t real, that it’s just another cold or that it’s a conspiracy. The bottom line is that COVID-19 is real. And it is worse than a typical cold. This not real virus is overwhelming our hospitals. Right now it’s taking up one out of every four beds that’s occupied in the hospitals across our state. This just another cold is putting hundreds of people in the ICU and on ventilators. It’s estimated that flu influenza causes between 12,060 1000 deaths annually in the US. But in this year alone, we have more than 246,000 deaths that are attributable to COVID-19 we have to call out the untruths we have to speak truth COVID-19 is very real. And it has been very deadly for so many.
Since yesterday, we’ve received reports of 140 additional brothers and sisters and co workers and grandparents who have lost their lives to this not real virus for a total of over 11,000 lives lost. Today we are reporting 8922 new cases, for a total of 606,771 total cases. Overnight 5953 individuals were in the hospital with this not real virus 1146 of those were in the ICU and 547. Were on ventilators. I’m also hearing people say that it’s only older people or those with health conditions who are dying from the virus. Well, it is true that people who are older and people who have comorbidities are at higher risk. But I will tell you that of the 140 new reports of deaths that we’ve gotten. Two of them were in their 30s, three were in their 40s. Nine were in their 50s.
The populations at greater risk are our elderly. But I believe that the death of a 90 year old or a 50 year old or a 20 year old all matter if people want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that this virus doesn’t exist, or it’s not that bad, I guess they’re free to do so. What you should not be able to do is risk the health of other individuals and everyone that you come in contact with, because you won’t wear a mask or because you won’t stop hosting or going to events and gatherings or because you won’t socially distance you don’t have the right to expose another person to a potentially deadly virus. So even if you can’t see how real this virus truly is, can we at least agree to be respectful of others and wear a mask and keep our distance everyone’s actions affect others? And remember if you really want to give thanks this Thanksgiving, give the gift of life and not put someone’s life in danger.