Gov. J.B. Pritzker is returning to his 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 Monday, November the 16th Dr. Ezike and I will be joined today by Dr. Michael coolish, the Chief Medical Officer for Northwestern medicines kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, located in Region One, and Ruth Colby, President and CEO of silver cross Hospital in new Lenox located in Region seven. These health care leaders are here today with a simple plea. Stay home if you can, and wear a mask if you need to go out because what nurses and doctors and health care workers are experiencing right now in their hospitals is a crisis as challenging as the one they experienced last spring. These are our frontline health care heroes and they need our support right now.
The nation has been swept by a covid storm that has taken Illinois positivity rate from low single digits to the mid teens. And with nearly no mitigations in the states bordering us, and no national strategy to reduce the spread. We’re in for a very difficult next few months. But there’s a lot each of us can do to keep our loved ones here in Illinois as protected as possible. Before this latest wave, we reached our hospitalization peak six months ago. As of our most current data, we are today averaging more than 5200 patients fighting COVID-19 in our hospitals, that’s 400 more individuals than at our spring high and a 70% increased in the last two weeks alone. And crucially, not only are we seeing more people coming into our hospitals with COVID, but the rate of increase itself continues to grow at an alarming rate. Our most recent week over week percent increase is three times what it was in early October. And our doctors, nurses, EMTs. Hospital social workers and respiratory therapists are paying the price. They’re exhausted, often working overtime and double shifts. And remember, this is a moment when the entire nation is seeing record highs in hospitalizations more than at any prior time in this pandemic.
That fact is more than a frightening backdrop, because it means that there are no health care workers to call in as reinforcements from other states. It means that out of state nurses and nurses assistants, who signed up to support Illinois in the spring are busy in their own states. It means that even more than in the spring, we have to step up to support our health care workers and do everything in our power to prevent people from contracting covid 19.
We have the knowledge and the tools to accomplish that by staying home by wearing masks when we must go out and buy avoiding gatherings until we can get to a place where it’s safe to come together again. In the spring COVID seemed to many like this was a problem, mostly for big cities like Chicago or St. Louis, as rural areas had far lower positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths. As I said back then, and have said throughout this pandemic, this virus knows no boundaries. What we’re seeing now is a widespread problem across every region of Illinois all at once. And let’s get something clear.
If we wait to take action until our hospitals are full, it will be too late. And countless patients COVID patients as well as those with all the other ailments and injuries that bring people to the hospital will die unnecessary deaths, because there aren’t enough beds or people to staff them. So we’re keeping in close touch with hospitals on an individual system level and regional level basis to monitor who is at risk of running out of staff or ICU beds in the next three weeks. But I want to be clear, we can’t create new staff for a hospital that’s filled to the brim.
We can’t staff more ICU beds. If a hospital’s personnel gets sick outside of work because people in their communities refused to wear a mask or follow any of the mitigation rules. We need everyone to pitch in so that we can protect our heroes who are on the front lines. In just a moment, you’ll be hearing from the two hospital leaders who are here to share their stories of what they’re seeing on the frontlines in their communities. The regions that are home to their hospitals region one that’s in northwestern Illinois, and region seven will and Kankakee counties have both long since surpassed the worst COVID-19 hospitalization rates that they ever saw last spring. region one has more than doubled its spring peak, and region seven is at 150%. of its spring peak. Neither is showing signs of stopping their rise. But these regions are not unique.
They are not outliers. This is the story that we’re seeing in regional hospital systems all across the state. deaths are a lagging indicator, meaning that the people who pass away today were likely diagnosed days or weeks ago. And sadly, some portion of the people diagnosed today will in days and weeks to come be fighting for their lives in an intensive care unit, without the ability to have family with them. Count back several weeks ago and ask if there was a gathering that took place in your neighborhood that could have spread the virus, then ask yourself if it’s worth it to spread the virus at any upcoming gatherings. Knowing that deaths are a lagging indicator, it’s all the more concerning that even before winter, we are already seeing the consequences of significantly rising case rates and hospitalizations across the state. And we can expect much worse to come if mitigation measures aren’t followed, leading into Thanksgiving. We don’t want to end up like the Dakotas, for example, which have taken far fewer proactive efforts to reduce the spread and are currently seeing per capita death rates more than twice what we’re seeing here in Illinois. You can prevent this, but you have to act now. The consequences of inaction go deeper than just this disease.
Every bed in the hospital that a covid patient takes up is a bed that’s not going to treat someone’s heart attack, a cancer patient or the victim of a car crash. Every doctor reassigned to the COVID wing is a doctor no longer available to do an appendectomy, set a broken rib or monitor newborns add on to it. That flu season sends 10s of thousands of Americans to the hospital every year. Take into account that we have just 1100 ICU beds open in a state of nearly 13 million people in the middle of a pandemic. deaths from COVID-19 are up 260%. Since the beginning of October, when we were averaging 23 deaths a day. And 98% from two weeks ago when we were averaging 41 per day. Now we’re seeing 81 deaths per day.
That means that every day, we’re averaging another 81 mothers, or fathers or children or grandchildren no longer with us, adding to the total of Illinois lost now more than 11,000 and the number of Americans lost now at 246,000. With all the other causes of death death, we fight like hell to keep people alive. When the number of people dying in car accidents was much higher, we decided to require seatbelts and increase the penalties for those charged with the most horribly negligent crimes like drunk driving with vehicular manslaughter. By doing these things, we significantly reduce the numbers of lives lost. When seasonal flu was much more deadly than today, we implemented a national strategy to provide annual flu vaccine at a low cost or free and now every corner clinic and doctor’s office tries to vaccinate everyone who walks in the door in the fall to bring that number down. cancer in its various forms takes hundreds of thousands of our loved ones every single year. So we pour billions of dollars into research to someday put an end to this tragic disease. We have to fight against this one too. I know that it is incredibly difficult that we’re still living with this pandemic. And it’s exceptionally exhausting to think that for all that we’ve sacrificed this new COVID storm is taking more and more lives. But we have to remember that we can continue The damage that this is causing and there will be an end to this.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there will be an end. This will be over someday. We’re seeing incredibly innovative, wonderful news. On the vaccine front just this morning moderna announced outstanding preliminary results of nearly 95% protection for those who were vaccinated. And while the moderna and Pfizer models both use mRNA technology modernas vaccine can be stored at much lower temperatures, meaning that it could prove especially functional in reaching people who live farther from the hospital. Between the two announcements and the countless incredible public and private sector researchers who fueled it, we have real hope for possible widespread distribution by early spring. Still, that’s months away. So we have to let that inspire us not to give up and to take more precautions for ourselves and for our healthcare workers. Let’s do all that we can to save lives now. So that more Illinois, more Americans will be here, when the vaccine is here, to get the vaccine and get to the other side of this pandemic. So thank you. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike 11:29
Thank you and good afternoon. This is the week before Thanksgiving. And I want to remind people that it is not too late to rethink your Thanksgiving Day plans. They need to be more aligned with COVID-19 precautions. We can all see it, things are getting worse. And so those initial plans that you made several months ago, even several weeks ago, they may need to change. Do your plans include those who are over 60? Do your plans include those who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk? Are some of your intended guests pregnant? You have to be thinking about all of these things before you bring additional people into your home. The best way to share this holiday is virtually you really have to consider doing it that way.
Let’s not gamble with a virus that has already stolen from us robbed us of nearly 11 million people in just eight months. Since yesterday, 11,632 new cases of COVID have been reported for a total of 585,248 cases in the state of Illinois. This includes reports of 37 additional lives last for a total of 10,779 deaths in Illinois. Again, these are our neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, grandparents, all of those empty seats around our Thanksgiving table from next week. 5581 people were reported to be in the hospital overnight with COVID-19. And of those 1144 patients were in the ICU and 514 were on ventilators. And the last 24 hours, more than 9010 90,000 tests have been reported for more than 9.1 million tests in Illinois. Everyone’s going to tell you the same thing. Our hospitals are on their way to being overwhelmed our doctors, nurses and health care workers are already being stretched beyond their limits. I don’t know how else to express the importance of personal responsibility.
It is each individual’s action, my actions, your actions, all of our actions that will dictate our path forward. don’t see it as you’re watching this movie and you’re sitting back in your chair trying to figure out how the story ends. You are in the movie, you’re one of the actors. You’re also one of the directors, you get to determine how this show how this movie plays out. Please write the lines. So that involves people wearing their masks and avoiding situations that promote the spread of this virus. Let’s write a script and act out a script that will get us to the end of this pandemic sooner rather than later. We want to see less cases, less hospitalizations, less deaths. We can do that. We can wash our hands. We can wear our masks. We can forego some of these events, even these holiday events and I won’t say for a go. We’ll celebrate them. Let’s celebrate them virtually. You can cook people who love to cook, cook the food and leave it at the doorstep for people to pick it up so they can still enjoy your culinary expertise. But we have to reverse the course that we’re currently on. We are For a rough ride for the next three months or so, just how bumpy it really gets depends on each of us. Let’s hang in there together and be in all in for Illinois. Thank you
Governor Pritzker 15:29
Thank you. I’d like to welcome our first of two guest speakers streaming in from their respective communities to share their insights and to remind Illinoisans of the people that we’re all fighting for. First, Dr. Michael Kulisz, an emergency medical specialist and Chief Medical Officer for both Northwestern medicines kishwaukee Hospital and for Northwestern Valley West at critical access care hospital. He’s going to talk about the concerning rise in cases in the DeKalb area. Dr. Kulisz?
Dr. Michael Kulisz 18:44
Thank you. As the governor mentioned, our hospitals are located in Region One and none of the numbers have over doubled from what we thought was the peak in late spring and early summer. We’ve developed scientia plans that allow us to go ahead and flex up and down as the volumes increase. And we’re confident that we can implement the surge plans quickly meaning the physicians nurses and staff have done a phenomenal job rising to meet the challenge of increased volumes taking care of the patients that they serve.
It’s important for the community to understand that each of the hospitals is a safe place to come to I know early in the pandemic. Some patients opted to stay home because of a fear that it wasn’t safe at the hospital. But the hospitals have put a lot of things in place including PPV hand washing stations, visitor policies that does make it safe for patients to come. So if someone does have a medical emergency, please feel comfortable coming to the hospital.
The important piece though is as we continue to have the volumes go up is very difficult for our staff. Our positions are Clinical and non clinical staff to continue the long hours are working and resources are going to dry up. So it’s important for all of us to do our part, in our part isn’t that difficult. It’s simple. It’s masked, its physical distancing. It’s washing our hands and it says staying home and avoiding gatherings when we can. By doing this, we hopefully will flatten the curve and get back to what was once normal. Thank you.
Governor Pritzker 20:30
Thank you very much, Dr. coolish, appreciate you sharing your experiences and, and to you and all of your colleagues, for your courageous service throughout this pandemic. I know that it’s not the challenge that you envisioned when you got into medicine. But you’ve taken it on and you’re you’re doing a tremendous job. Thank you. I’m grateful as well for our second speaker Ruth Colby, President and CEO of silver cross Hospital in new Lenox in will County. Ruth has been with silver cross for 15 years and has paved an impressive and innovative career path in the field of health care. And in joining us today. She is joining us today rather to testify to the problematic trajectory that silver cross is seeing going into the holiday season. Doctor or Ruth sorry.
Ruth Colby 21:24
Thank you, Governor and on behalf of all the hospitals in Illinois, I’d like to thank you and Dr. Ziggy for your tremendous leadership. Throughout this pandemic, you are wracked hospital health care workers are weary. The pandemic has taken its toll on our community and on our health care workers. And it’s not only the bed side health care workers, but that we have housekeepers and Nutrition Services workers and we have Building Services workers, everybody who makes sure that this place operates the way that it does to serve our community. Today we have over 60 individuals that are not able to come to work because of contacting COVID in the community.
I agree with Dr. Poulos The hospital is safe. We have PP we have visitor restrictions, we have all kinds of protocols in place. So please do not delay medical care. But what we’re seeing is our staff contracting and being exposed to the disease in small community gatherings or in places that people are not wearing masks and this makes it more and more difficult for us to take care of the people in Region seven, our positivity rate out here has exceeded 18%. And we have not seen a drop in it for several several days.
We continue to do surgeries we manage very, very carefully the schedule, we look forward to make sure that we have enough beds, we our search plan is in place so that we are able to use any resource within the hospital that we can accept patients our emergency room is the has been extremely full night after night. So I think my messages is that every time someone in the community does not wear a mask or observe the other safety precaution to outline that creates the potential for a healthcare worker to contract COVID. And we’re urging everyone in the community to please please help us stem the growth of this disease, especially over the holidays. Thank you, Governor, I’ll pass it back to you for questions.
Governor Pritzker 23:44
Great. Thank you very much, Ruth and thank you for the work that you’re doing on behalf of all of us at silver cross hospital.