IDPH: Take preventative steps to have a safe holiday without COVID-19

Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 4:16 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois COVID-19 hospital admissions have increased for four straight weeks. The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to urge people to get up-to-date on COVID-19 and flu vaccines to prevent serious illness.

There were more than 1,825 Illinoisans hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, which is the highest IDPH has reported since February. IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said Thursday that immunocompromised people, adults over 65, and young children are most vulnerable to COVID-19 hospitalization right now. He suggested everyone should take COVID-19 tests before seeing family or friends for the holidays.

If you have symptoms and test positive for COVID-19, Vohra said you should stay home and contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible to figure out the best treatment. Paxlovid, Lagverio, and Remdesivir have been found to work against the current strains of the virus. He stressed that people should take care of themselves and their loved ones so they don’t end up needing to spend time in the ICU.

“Intensive care unit bed availability is sort of hovering below that 20% threshold across the state. It makes us feel better when we’re above 20%,” Vohra said. “Right now at 15%, we imagine that the number and availability is only going to shrink more.”

Vohra explained people should wash their hands properly and have good ventilation if they host family members or friends over the holidays. He also said that people need to wear masks again to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 86 counties are currently at an elevated risk for COVID-19, but counties at the medium community level could quickly shift to the high community level. Vohra said people in every county have to stay cautious.

The COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine is now authorized for children six months and older. IDPH is suggesting parents and guardians get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

Younger children who previously completed a Modeterna primary series can now receive a Moderna bivalent booster two months after their final primary series dose. Meanwhile, young children who previously received Pfizer vaccines will get a Pfizer bivalent booster as their third primary dose. Doctors, parents, and guardians can find resources from the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics by clicking here.

More than 2 million people in Illinois have received a dose of the bivalent COVID-19 booster shots since they were authorized in early September. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 13,701 doses, including the bivalent booster and first doses.

Vohra said people should keep a mask with them at all times and put it on whenever they go into a crowded indoor space. He noted that you don’t know what the ventilation is for most businesses that you visit. Vohra said he is seeing a lot of people who don’t mask up dealing with harsh coughs and cold symptoms.

“It’s another reminder that a mask does prevent that spread if you are around other people that are having symptoms and it keeps you a little bit more relieved and reassured that that mask is making a difference,” Vohra added.

Vohra said IDPH wants everyone to have a healthy and safe holiday season. He said taking these preventative measures can make a big difference to keep people safe. The director also stressed that people should take advantage of the free COVID-19 tests available from the federal government. You can order the free tests by clicking here.

IDPH is also distributing 1 million COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to 200,000 families in economically disadvantaged zip codes outside of Chicago. The effort was made possible through a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s public charity and its Project ACT (Access COVID Tests) program. People can find out if they live in an eligible zip code and request a package of five tests at the Project ACT website. The COVID-19 tests will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis and will be delivered to the home address applicants use.

IDPH data indicated that the risk of hospitalization and severe outcomes from COVID-19 is much higher for unvaccinated people than for people who are up to date on their vaccinations.

The state continues to work with pharmacies and healthcare providers to increase the inventory of various FDA-authorized treatments. IDPH reported there are over 1,200 treatment locations across the state, including all major retail pharmacies. More than 96.7% of the state’s population is within a 10-mile radius of one of these locations.

“When our hospitals are overrun, you’re not going to be able to get a hospital bed soon enough for COVID-19 or the flu,” Vohra said. “It also means that any other medical challenge that you might have, that hospital bed might be taken up. During this holiday season, we want to help people understand what they can do to help themselves and stay out of the hospital.”

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