ILLINOIS — As the governor puts more COVID-19 mitigations in for the southernmost part of the state, a state lawmaker in the northwestern region says it’s the wrong strategy.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced more COVID-19 restrictions for Region 5 of his COVID-19 reopening plan. That’s the southernmost region of the state. Pritzker’s reopening plan increases mitigation efforts, like prohibiting indoor service at bars and restaurants, if a region has a COVID-19 positivity rate of 8 percent or more for three days.
The governor told CNN on Sunday that continued mitigations are necessary.
“The truth of the matter is it is very dangerous and even if there are therapeutics that are coming online that are helping people, our hospitalizations are going up,” Pritzker said.
State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said that’s fear-mongering. And while it’s important to take COVID-19 seriously, he said hospitals are able to handle the situation in his northwestern region where there are ongoing mitigations that have been in place since Oct. 3.
“Even right now when he says that we need additional mitigation we have no issues at all with hospital capacity,” Sosnowski said. “There are empty beds. In fact, health care workers have been laid off, not just in our region but across the state.”
In the latest monthly report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, in September the state saw a decline of 7,300 educational and health services jobs.
Even with the governor’s restrictions on businesses, Region 1’s positivity has climbed to above 11 percent. Despite that, around 40 percent of the region’s surgical beds are open. Nearly half of the region’s ICU beds are open.
In Illinois, of nearly 35,000 hospital beds across the state, patients with COVID-19 symptoms in the hospital have increased to 2,012 as of Oct. 17, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data. That’s up from the July 4 low of 1,326. The peak hospitalization on April 28 was 5,037.
At no point in the pandemic have hospital beds statewide reached max capacity. The only time there were fewer than 10,000 vacant beds was on May 6.
The Illinois Health and Hospital Association recognized pandemic fatigue, but urged continued hygiene, mask use and social distancing to help maintain hospital capacity.
“We are now seeing a new surge in COVID cases and deaths in Illinois, matching and exceeding peak levels seen last spring,” said IHA spokesman Danny Chun. “While hospitals are continuing to be prepared to provide life-saving care and making sure they are able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that everyone NOT let down their guard and keep following the three Ws – wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands – and avoid large crowds.”
“Taking these important precautions will help hospitals maintain needed capacity and not be overwhelmed,” Chun said.
Sosnowski said COVID-19 is serious but ongoing restrictions in northwestern Illinois aren’t doing any good. He said with more than half of the COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities, it’s obvious where the focus should be.
“The governor should be spending all of his time working on state-run institutions for the elderly, nursing homes, assisted living centers and doing everything we can to shore up those centers,” Sosnowski said.
Pritzker said the continued mitigations are necessary. Sosnowski noted in Wisconsin where unilateral restrictions were shot down back in May by the state’s Supreme Court, Wisconsin has a rate of 20 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000. That’s much lower than Illinois’ 75 per 100,000.
“I think that should be a real eye-opening experience to residents of Illinois that they need to start demanding their local legislators and the [Democratic] majority party and the governor to stop what they are doing and get back to common sense,” Sosnowski said.
The Center Square – Greg Bishop