Medical experts say COVID-19 fatigue to blame for hospital bed uptick, encourage public to mask up and stay vigilant

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Hospital beds in McLean County are slowing creeping to full capacity, and some medical experts say COVID-19 fatigue is to blame.

McLean County’s Health Department reported on April 15 95% of hospital beds were in use, including 88% of intensive care (ICU) beds.

Lynn Fulton, president of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, said it’s because people have gotten too comfortable.

“I think it’s really important for everyone to [understand] that COVID-19 is not over … When people start thinking ‘oh we have low transmission in our area, it’s safe to go back to my normal habits,’ we start seeing an increase in the disease and we believe that will continue really until we have the majority of people vaccinated,” Fulton said.

She said most people are in the hospital for “normal” concerns unrelated to COVID-19, but the COVID-19 cases are taking up beds that otherwise would be available.

“You have about 25% of your inpatient capacity taken up by a disease that didn’t exist a year and a half ago. So you’re really adding that much more to the beds, so the result of that is the hospital is relatively full,” Fulton said.

James L. Levin, vice president and associate chief medical officer at Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, said he’s not surprised people have a false sense of security.

“When was the last time you shook hands with someone? When was the last time you hugged somebody? When was the last time you saw their face in public? There’s a laxity or assumption that once I got vaccinated, I could … let my guard down and I’m OK … That’s just not true,” he said.

Levin said about 75% of the beds at his hospital are full, so they are okay for now. However, he is worried declining hospital capacity throughout the state and public complacency will lead to overwhelming the system.

Levin stressed personal responsibility to continue to wear masks, avoid crowds, and get vaccinated.

“I wear my mask for you as much as I do for myself,” said Levin.

Ultimately, Fulton said, the key to getting out of this is reaching herd immunity.

“We do not have the majority of people vaccinated yet and so this virus is still very prevalent and it is one that will spread when you’re in close proximity with others. The sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner will be done with this pandemic,” she said.

For upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics in McLean County, click here.

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