Year in Review: Another year in the battle against COVID-19

“It’s not because we want to, but it’s one measure we can simply take...”
“It’s not because we want to, but it’s one measure we can simply take...”(WIFR)
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 4:54 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Illinois public health officials reported 21,098 confirmed and probable new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. IDPH also reported 50 deaths over the last 24 hours. The 7-day rolling positivity rate now stands at 9.1%.

Our Capitol Bureau is taking a closer look at the effects of COVID-19 in Illinois throughout 2021.

Illinois had seen 970,590 COVID-19 cases at the start of 2021. That number has now surpassed 2.1 million and there is once again no end in sight.

You may remember the state’s initial reopening plan nicknamed Restore Illinois. People watched closely to see when their region could move to the next phase and closer to a safe reopening.

Vaccines were already available for seniors and health care workers across the country and more people became eligible in the following months.

“Vaccination is essential to use moving forward, but it only works if we actually utilize the critical resource,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike said on Jan. 11.

Illinois quickly moved to a tiered system based on test positivity rates, available staffed ICU beds, and the number of new COVID patients going into hospitals in each region. The state reached the Bridge Phase when 70% of people 65 and older were vaccinated, allowing increased capacity for restaurants, bars, and events.

Illinois finally moved into Phase 5 on June 11 when 50% of people 16 and older were vaccinated and the state saw significant declines in COVID-19 metrics. That didn’t last very long as the delta variant brought mask mandates back for long-term care facilities and schools in August.

“Given the CDC’s strong recommendation, I had hoped that a state mask requirement in schools wouldn’t be necessary,” said Gov. JB Pritzker on Aug. 4. “But it is.”

The Pritzker administration later reinstated the statewide indoor mask mandate to address the delta variant surge. Soon, vaccine and testing requirements started for health care workers, school staff, and long-term care facilities.

State employees in congregate care settings and daycare center staff were later included under the vaccine mandate. However, the delta variant continues to surge across Illinois and now the omicron variant is causing new concerns.

Some across the state have stopped wearing masks due to fatigue from the pandemic. Still, the fight against COVID-19 isn’t over and Illinois is officially keeping the mask mandate in place.

“It really has kept infections from skyrocketing,” Pritzker said Monday. “It’s awful right now, but it would be much worse. Look at the states around us and how many people are getting sick and going into the hospital and dying.”

5,471 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Illinois. That’s the most COVID patients we’ve seen in the hospital since Dec. 2, 2020.

Some school districts are considering a move back to virtual learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although, many parents and guardians hope their students can stay in classrooms during 2022.

Of course, COVID-19 mitigations continue to be politicized and response to the pandemic will likely play into the 2022 elections. Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) has fought against the Pritzker administration’s public health decisions throughout the pandemic. Bailey, now running for governor against Pritzker, says the Democrat can’t force children to wear masks in school.

“Our children’s education is a priority, not a political pawn. Our students deserve a quality, in-person education where parental involvement is encouraged, and masks are optional,” Bailey said. “Springfield needs to remember they work for the people, not the special interests.”

The positivity rate in Clay County, where Bailey lives, is now 14.48%. Despite the argument against masks for children, Illinois has seen a mild increase in pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Ezike explained Monday that the number of children contracting COVID-19 will increase as more adults are infected.

“Hopefully, it won’t be so severe,” Ezike said. “We don’t want to report any more deaths period and of course, those pediatric deaths are especially hard to deal with.”

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