Surge in COVID-19 Cases Prompts Gov. Pritzker to Send Rapid Response Teams to Hospitals

Video: Amanda Vinicky joins us with a deeper look at COVID-19 cases and the surge’s wider implications on health care. 

As the number of Illinois residents hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to surpass records, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that more than 2,000 health care workers would be sent to hospitals to help care for those who are ill.

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In addition, a 12-person team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is headed to hospitals in the Rockford region, Pritzker said. 

Just 5% of intensive care beds are available in the six-county area in the northwest corner of the state, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Statewide, 9% of intensive care beds are available, according to state data.

More than 900 health care workers are already on duty, with another 500 workers due to report on Friday, Pritzker said. The state has also formed rapid reaction teams to respond to hospitals facing significant demand for staffers. More than 230 workers are on duty, with another 340 workers on duty within 10 days.

“We must do all that we can to keep our health care workers and institutions operating and available to all who need assistance,” Pritzker said.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the state would pay a premium for the additional workers under contracts in place to ensure that hospitals have adequate staff.

Many health care workers have quit, exhausted by a pandemic that is on the verge of entering its third year, while others are in isolation because they contracted COVID-19, Ezike said.

“We are pulling on every lever,” Ezike said. “Records have been smashed.”

Approximately 7,100 people are in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19, Ezike said. More than 80% of those patients are unvaccinated, she added.

The state has adequate beds for those who are ill, which means opening field hospitals like the state did at the beginning of the pandemic will not address the issue, Pritzker said, adding that the issue is staff.

Pritzker also announced he would loosen rules allowing health care workers from out of state and not fully licensed to practice in Illinois to help ease the crunch.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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