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Hospitalizations still holding back the ‘Bridge Phase’ for Illinois

On March 18, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the final steps to fully reopening Illinois out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state had targets to hit for at least one vaccine dose administered to both seniors and Illinois residents 16 and older.

And, as long as hospital ICU bed availability remained higher than 20% statewide, and new COVID-19 hospital admissions, total COVID-19 patients in the hospital, and death rates did not increase significantly statewide over the most recent 28 days, the state would advance to what is called the “Bridge Phase” – with slight bumps in capacity limits for restaurants, businesses and events. That phase was put on pause at the end of March as hospitalizations increased – nearly doubling from February – and cases rose with it.

The state has since hit its vaccine metrics for the Bridge Phase and Phase 5. As of Friday, 77.89% of seniors and 51.58% of Illinois residents 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose.

The two metrics holding the state back? New hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness, and hospitalized patients with COVID-19. While those numbers are still at early February levels, state data shows they are beginning to show signs of not just stability, but decline.

On Monday, there were 2,228 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. By Friday, that number decreased to 2,112 patients. New hospital admissions for COVID-like illness have declined from a high of 240 on April 16 to 229 on April 20.

That doesn’t mean the state will head right to Phase 5 once they are officially in decline.

“According to the plan you need to reach the vaccination milestones and have stable or declining metrics in new hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness and hospitalized patients with COVID,” Jordan Abudayyeh, spokesperson for Gov. Pritzker, said in an email on Friday afternoon. “Once those metrics stabilize or decline, the state will proceed to bridge phase. If those metrics continue to hold stable and decline over 28 days during bridge phase, then the state will proceed to phase 5.”

Hospitalization trends are measured by the state over the most recent 28-day period.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, “hospitalizations for COVID-like illness are defined as CLI if the patient presents with a fever and either cough, difficulty breathing or is given a diagnosis of COVID-19. Data is provisional, and a three-day lag after admission is used to allow time for IDPH to receive more complete data before analysis is performed.”

“Trend analysis uses a linear regression test for the most recent 28 days to detect any significant increases in hospital admissions.”

Despite the increase in confirmed variant cases of COVID-19, the state has only seen more than one day of 4,000 new COVID-19 cases since February, and hasn’t had a day with more than 40 COVID-19 deaths since March 11, as the vaccine rollout has given increased protection to Illinois residents. Nationally, COVID-19 hospitalizations for seniors are down 80% since the start of the year, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Vaccine supply from the federal government has increased, and Shaw Local’s Vaccine Central has reported multiple days this week of open appointments throughout northern Illinois. Public health officials continue to encourage anyone who is eligible and hasn’t received a vaccine to make an appointment.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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