• Tracking the variant

Live updates: Omicron in Chicago

Illinois hospitals have a record number of COVID-19 patients

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, at a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Chicago. Teresa Crawford / Associated Press

Illinois hospitals are bursting with a record number of COVID-19 patients.

And the omicron surge fueling that capacity crisis also is showing no signs of easing in Illinois, the state’s top public health official told reporters Wednesday.

Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said more than 7,100 patients are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus, which is nearly 1,000 more than at any previous time.

“We have never had this many COVID patients in the hospital at any point in the pandemic. Not in spring of 2020, not in the winter of 2020,” she said. “This is the absolutely highest number and not just by a couple. Our previous totals have been smashed.”

And while the omicron surge has shown rapid declines in other places, like South Africa, there is no evidence to show that Illinois has reached its peak in total cases, Ezike said.

Hospitalizations dipped slightly in the past 24 hours but crept higher a day earlier, which she said is not the consistent downward trend necessary to declare the worst has passed.

“I will be the first to announce it when we can say that pretty confidently. Crossing my fingers and toes,” Ezike said. “But I just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

She said the available vaccines have been very effective at keeping people with COVID out of Illinois hospitals – and that less than one-tenth of one percent of patients are vaccinated.