Cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and Whiteside County are surging. In the last 7 days, Whiteside County has had 996 new cases, a 213% increase, and a case rate of 1,805 per 100,000, the health department reported Tuesday.
This case rate is 36 times higher than the CDC’s case rate of 50 per 100,000 — at which all individuals, vaccinated and unvaccinated, are recommended to mask in indoor public locations.
As cases rise, Illinois and the Region 1 Hospital systems (nine counties in the northwest corner of the state) are seeing an increase in hospitalizations. As of Jan. 7th, Region 1 saw the highest 7-day rolling average of COVID-19 patients in the hospital since the start of the pandemic — with 332 people hospitalized, according to a Whiteside release. Before this current surge, the highest 7-day average in Region 1 was 299 on Nov. 15, 2020.
At this time, Region 1 is also seeing the lowest number of overall ICU beds available (just 5% as of Jan. 9), since the start of the pandemic. While this decrease cannot entirely be attributed to COVID, “limited ICU availability can make our region less resilient, and mean increased transportation or wait times for individuals who are seriously ill or injured,” the health department said.
New Illinois campaign to boost vaccinations
With the surge of cases due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, the State of Illinois launched a new vaccine awareness campaign to explain the power of the life-saving vaccine. The “On the Fence”’ campaign features 18 meaningful stories from Illinoisans who were initially hesitant but are now fully vaccinated.
As health experts continue to advise unvaccinated individuals to get their life-saving shot, the campaign is directed to residents who are reluctant to get vaccinated. The campaign will roll out over the coming months, including stories from people who reflect the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the state.
“We are on the eve of the third year of this pandemic, but we have the tools to get through this, and I encourage everyone on the fence to get vaccinated,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a Tuesday release. “Reaching out to a relative, a coworker or a neighbor who is hesitant about getting the vaccine with kindness and compassion will help keep us all safe. Where we go next as a state is a matter of all of us pitching in. I urge everyone to get vaccinated, get boosted, and do their part.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recognizes that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine strategy is a critical component to reduce COVID-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. According to the CDC, the unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who have been vaccinated and boosted.
“We understand there are still people who have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, and I urge them to talk with a health care provider as well as others who have been vaccinated,” said IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Safe and effective vaccines have been used for more than a year now, longer if you include the clinical trials, and they have good safety and effectiveness records. People receiving the COVID-19 vaccines are experiencing significantly reduced rates of hospitalization and death. They are recommended for everyone 5 years and older.”
The initial rollout of the campaign will feature the following videos:
- Ken – If we had received the vaccination (:30)
- Shannon – Knows it’s real (:30)
- Rayyaan – Had his doubts (:30)
- Elvia and Rafael – This is safer (:30)
The campaign will reach Illinoisans in every corner of the state in both English and Spanish through a variety of traditional and online media channels, including cable, broadcast and connected TV; streaming audio and radio; billboards and bus shelters; digital display and video; print and social media. Similar to other coronavirus-related expenses, costs are reimbursable by the federal government.
Vaccination remains key to ending this pandemic. To find a COVID-19 vaccine location near you, visit vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.
Slowing the spread of COVID in our communities needs a community-wide approach with everyone taking steps to protect themselves and those around us.
Steps you should take to help protect yourself and others:
- Get your COVID-19 vaccine and recommended booster when eligible.
- Wear a well-fitted mask when around others.
- Social distance at least 6 feet around individuals outside your household.
- Get tested when you have symptoms (even mild ones) and limit contact with others until you know your results.
- Stay home and seek appropriate medical care when you are sick.
- Follow CDC and IDPH guidance if you test positive or are exposed.