Illinois Puts COVID-19 Overflow Sites on Back Burner

New statewide totals: 43,903 cases, 1,933 deaths

For the third day in a row, Illinois has exceeded Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s goal of running at least 10,000 daily tests for the novel coronavirus.

In the 24-hour period between Saturday and Sunday, Illinois conducted 13,335 tests.

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Within that time frame, the state reported another 2,126 COVID-19 cases and 59 fatalities, bringing Illinois’ totals to 43,903 confirmed cases and 1,933 deaths.

While the number of cases continues to rise despite a stay-at-home order that’s been in place since March 21, Illinois is not seeing so many severe cases that the medical system is overwhelmed.

As of midnight, 4,495 people were hospitalized in Illinois after testing positive for the virus. COVID-19 patients are at this point using about 35%, or 1,267 of the state’s 3,631 staffed ICU beds, data from the Illinois Department of Public Health shows.

With 722 coronavirus patients on ventilators, Illinois has about 78% of its statewide supply of 3,326 staffed ventilators available.

The lesser-than-expected surge means Illinois is scaling back plans for backup care facilities.

Illinois hurried to convert the McCormick Place convention center into a makeshift coronavirus field hospital with three halls of 3,000 beds.

An estimated 14 patients are believed to be getting treatment there now, the governor’s office said.

During his daily press briefing Sunday, Pritzker said a revised plan will include two halls with 500 beds each – one that’s equipped with negative pressure tents and “higher level equipment”; the other meant for low-acuity patients who are recuperating from the coronavirus and cannot yet go home but who do not require full hospitalization.

Pritzker said the state is “keeping at bay” other facilities the state has converted to coronavirus care facilities, such as the former Vibra Hopsital in Springfield, “with the thought that we may need to spin those up at a later date.”

“We have the ability to move into the other spaces that we had planned but it does not appear that we will need those, at least in the immediate future,” Pritzker said. “So we are not going to staff those or fully build out the rest of those.”

The governor’s office said construction is complete at the former MetroSouth hospital in Blue Island, the former Westlake hospital in Melrose Park and the former Advocate Sherman hospital in Elgin, such that they are ready to go if needed.

Vibra is still being prepared for use as a potential COVID-19 care center.

Medical staff that had been hired to work at these overflow facilities will instead be redeployed to what Pritzker described as “other areas of need” including nursing homes “where because of sickness there may be a reduction in staffing.”

Outside of Cook County and the suburbs, some of the highest clusters of cases in Illinois are in the Rockford area and the Metro East area, just across from St. Louis.

Pritzker said that he is not in direct communication with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson about it.

“He’s gone in a different direction than we have,” Pritzker said of Parson. “We obviously have challenges on our side of the border. It’s likely because of the differences between the two states orders that there’s been more of a hot spot on our side but it’s unclear about that.”

Missouri’s stay-at-home order will be lifted May 4; Illinois’ has been extended through the end of May.

The Show Me State’s order is less restrictive than the Land of Lincoln’s.   

Pritzker said that county health officials are coordinating across Missouri and Illinois border.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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