CHICAGO — Hospitals are overwhelmed and understaffed, and health care workers are desperately burned out, state officials and hospital executives said Monday, adding unvaccinated Illinoisans are fueling the hospitalizations.
On Sunday, the state reported the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began, with 6,294 people hospitalized with COVID-19 or a related illness, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Of those, more than 85 percent are unvaccinated, officials said.
“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,” Pritzker said Monday. “[Health care workers] are under tremendous strain and I don’t know how much more they can withstand.”
Pritzker was joined by executives from the state’s top hospitals, who begged the more than 4 million people who remain unvaccinated in Illinois to get the shots and get boosted.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, echoed this sentiment, saying hospitals are “completely overwhelmed” by COVID-19 patients.
“You might say you’re healthy and you might be okay if you get COVID, but the person right next to you might not be as fortunate,” Ezike said. “Facts are facts and no vaccine is 100 percent. However your chances of getting and transmitting COVID-19 are significantly greatly decreased as is your chance of getting severely ill or dying.”
“Vaccines are truly saving lives, it’s just that simple,” she added.
Last week, Pritzker urged Illinois hospitals to postpone non-emergency surgeries as they near capacity. Ezike said 550 pandemic-related hospitalizations are being reported per day statewide.
More than 90 percent of people in intensive care units with COVID are unvaccinated and nearly 100 percent of those needing ventilators haven’t gotten their shots, health officials said.
A.J. Wilhelmi, president and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, said the best way to provide relief to health care workers is to get vaccinated and boosted.
“We cannot emphasize this enough: hospitals and health care workers and our government partners cannot end this pandemic on their own, it takes everyone, ” he said. “Avoiding severe illness is key.”
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