COVID-19 cases are slightly increasing across the state as the omicron BA-2 subvariant continues to spread.
On Monday, the World Health Organization announced it is tracking two more subvariants of the omicron strain — BA.4 and BA.5. Still, the number of hospitalizations in Illinois are comparatively few.
“When you fast forward to this month, there’s less than 500 admissions,” said Dr. Omar Lateef, CEO and president of Rush University Medical Center. “While the numbers are increasing, the number of hospitalizations are actually decreasing. There’s spread of the disease, but it’s not the spread of acute and severe illness, so the threat of overwhelming the healthcare institutions is definitely lower than they’ve ever been before.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported just over 1,463 new COVID-19 cases Monday, up from 756 cases a week ago. That’s in comparison to a high of more than 42,903 cases reported on Jan. 7 at the height of omicron.
“The United States of America is amazing in the sense that there is vaccine availability,” Lateef said. “There are enough vaccines for everybody in this country to go get one and you can do that … really the numbers to get to herd immunity are something complicated. Some people would say 90%, some 80%, some even 70%. We’re not in any of those numbers right now. But we’re certainly at a point where when you get up near 70%, 80% you see the acuity go down and you see hospitalizations dramatically decrease and what’s helped so much wasn’t people getting sick”
Meanwhile, health officials say COVID has worsened the healthcare worker shortage, resulting in burnout and a sped-up track to retirement for many.
“We’ve shifted our thoughts of the staffing shortage from an acute problem to more of a chronic problem,” Lateef said. “The reality is we need to grow that net population of providers across the country because the staffing shortage is not isolated to just Chicago. It’s a national phenomenon … Ultimately, we have a growing population and we need to have a growing number of healthcare providers in this country.”