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Why this doctor is concerned about spike in COVID-19 infections as Illinois loosens restrictions

Illinois is moving to Phase 4 on Friday, which means bars and restaurants can reopen for indoor service, gyms can reopen, as can theaters and bowling alleys, and groups of up to 50 people will be allowed to gather.

And while a lot of folks may be looking forward to the looser restrictions, many in the medical field are worried that COVID-19 infection rates will go up as Illinois moves into Phase 4.

Dr. Kevin Most, DO, Chief Medical Officer, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, said that there hasn’t been enough testing to identify asymptomatic people, and without identifying those people, the virus can quickly spread when people are indoors.

“How can you physically distance in some bars? You might be able to, but it depends on the layout,” he explained. “Another concern is going from groups of 10 to groups of 50. It’s a lot more difficult when you expand the number to know where others have been or who they have been exposed to – and if they’re going home to someone in a vulnerable population.”

Most feels grateful that Illinois has “lagged behind” other states that have opened sooner, like Florida and Arizona, which are seeing a spike in cases, especially among people under age 40. However, he said that the same thing could happen if Illinoisans stop taking precautions.

“[Chicago] Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot and Gov. [JB] Pritzker have a lot of faith their constituents to socially distance and wear a mask, but in other states that hasn’t been the case. Look at some of the beaches and bars in Florida, it’s like ‘what’s COVID?’,” he said.

While he said that Illinois has done “quite well” by seeing a decrease in the number of infections and hospitalizations, he doesn’t want residents to get a false sense of security, especially since the rates of infection haven’t increased after the recent Black Lives Matter protests around the state.

“People might think there isn’t a big difference between the rallies and going into a crowded bar,” he said. “But there were several outdoor rallies over a period of 15 days. You have how many bars and restaurants in the area? There’s a lot more opportunities for exposure and transmission [indoors].”

The good news is, Most explained, is that many of the cases that are being identified now among younger and/or asymptomatic people have less risk of developing serious complications. He said that the important numbers to look at are the number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator use.

“Medical professionals are okay with identifying people in the public, whether they have mild symptoms or no symptoms,” he said. “We can tell those individuals to self-isolate. If you have a good immune system, your body can tolerate the infection. If you have co-morbidities, the virus can replicate enough to do damage.”

Despite younger people having fewer complications, Most stressed that people shouldn’t let their guard down as Illinois enters Phase 4.

“People are at a point of ‘I’m over this, I’m done with it’ but [the virus] is not gone,” he said. “We can’t be complacent. I feel like we’ll get a resurgence in the fall – when schools go back and people go into bars and restaurants. But hospitals and healthcare workers need to catch their breath. At one time we had 90 COVID patients in Central DuPage Hospital, but now we’re down to 23. The healthcare team has been beat up, and we’re finally getting a little breath of fresh air. We need a break. We know it’ll come back in the fall. We need our staff to rest and spend time with their families – because we’ll be back in the middle of this.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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