Nearly 100% of ventilators used on unvaccinated, Pritzker pleads with public to get vaccinated

State News

CHICAGO (WMBD) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave an update on the latest COVID-19 surge in the state Monday afternoon.

Pritzker started the conference with optimism, saying 19 million vaccines are in the arms of Illinoisans. He also said 90% of senior citizens are vaccinated, and many are boosted.

Pritzker then shifted to the topic of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, saying the state is at an all-time record number of cases and surging hospitalizations.

Pritzker said 85% of hospital beds, 95% of ICU beds, and nearly 100% of ventilators are occupied by unvaccinated patients. He pleaded with the public to get their vaccine if they have not already.

“At a time when some have chosen to politicize vaccinations as a way to polarize our politics, Illinois State Government is focusing on science,” Pritzker said. 

He said hospitalizations due to COVID are higher than last winter, when the vaccine was not yet available to the public. He also said the number of pediatric cases has tripled since the beginning of December.

“It is frustrating and tragic that two years into the pandemic, with multiple widely available and free life-saving vaccines, that we are once again in this horrible position,” he said.

The full press conference can be found here:

Last week, Pritzker’s administration asked hospitals to postpone all non-emergency surgeries in order to quell the strain on resources. He also shortened the time healthcare professionals need to be out of work after exposure to the virus.

“We do have the tools to get through this. It’s time for everyone to join in using those tools,” he said.

Pritzker advised the public to stay home if sick, get vaccinated, utilize masks, take advantage of free testing, and talk with friends and family who may be hesitant to get the vaccine.

He said the state is doubling personnel and adding at least 100 people to local vaccination sites. He said organizations can request a vaccination clinic by going to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website.

The Director of IDPH, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, joined the press conference virtually. She stressed that while the Omicron variant of the virus is less serious in most cases, the sheer number of people catching the virus is causing a surge in hospitalizations.

“Omicron spreads much, much quicker,” she said.

She said an average of 550 people are admitted to Illinois hospitals every day with COVID, and 90% are not vaccinated.

“People not taking advantage of something that could save their lives,” she said. “And they’re also not helping prevent the potential death of someone whom they may unknowingly spread it to.”

Ezike also warned to ensure when getting tested that the clinic is legitimate. She said to ask questions, as many are trying to scam the public.

“There, unfortunately, are those who are taking advantage of these crazy times to try to scam people,” Ezike said.

The IDPH website lists the location and addresses of testing sites.

“I’m asking for your help in this new year, 2022,” Dr. Ezike said.

AJ Wilhelmi, president and CEO of the Illinois Health & Hospitals Association (IHA), said this surge of cases is “testing our healthcare resources yet again.” He said it is imperative to “preserve the integrity of our healthcare infrastructure.”

“It’s been a long road for everyone, but especially the hospital community,” he said.  

Pritzker said there will not be a mandate for hospitals to postpone surgeries; he said those decisions will be made on a hospital-by-hospital basis.

He also said the IDPH will not play a role in sending at-home tests out, as that is a federal effort. He said instead, the IDPH is working to increase mobile testing clinics.

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