‘Groundhog Day Nightmare’ Doctor says ICU beds in central Illinois filling up with unvaccinated patients

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local doctor is calling the COVID-19 Delta variant surge a continuation of the “Groundhog Day nightmare” that has persisted for the past year and a half.

“We’re having to relive the nightmare over and over again,” said Dr. J.C. Michel, director of critical care at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

Michel said the percentage of people in ICU beds is higher than previous surges, and virtually all are unvaccinated patients.

“It appears to be more contagious and at least from our experience, it looks like it’s more severe … This is driven entirely by the Delta variant,” he said.

Monica Hendrickson, the public health administrator of the Peoria City/County Health Department, said hospitals in southern Illinois are reporting nearly all ICU beds are full, and it’s just a matter of time before this trend reaches central Illinois.

“I think we’re on the trajectory for another surge … We are about like a two or three-week delay from what we saw in Southern Illinois … I’m really hoping that we’re able to slow it down,” she said.

Michel said the hospital is having to create more negative pressure rooms for COVID patients, which reminds him of past surges.

“We had made many of these earlier in the pandemic, and then we didn’t need them as much during the lulls, and now it’s now its back, so the sounds of construction of building these specialized rooms to keep the staff from getting infected are being built again and so it’s eerily quiet punctuated by drills,” he said.

He forecasted a bleak outlook if these trends continue.

“I’m really concerned that if we don’t get vaccinated, we’re going to continue to see this cycle over and over again, and we’re never going to get back to the normalcy that we want and along the path towards not getting normalcy, we’re going to see a lot of our friends and family die,” he said.

As for the vaccinated, Dr. Michel said booster shots will be recommended in the near future. He said most likely people will need a booster shot at the six-month mark to reduce chances of breakthrough cases.

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