Kane COVID-19 cases up, but hospitalizations holding steady

All available COVID-19 vaccination brands are available at the Kane Vax Hub in Batavia.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Kane County, but hospitalizations aren’t matching the increase in infections.

Dr. Jay Liu, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, said that as of Tuesday, Delnor was “not busy with Covid patients.”

“We’re not seeing the huge numbers that we saw before with previous surges,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because we have more effective outpatient drugs now like Paxlovid, or this particular variant isn’t making as many people as sick. I am pleasantly surprised. Patients are coming in with Covid, but certainly not at the levels we’ve seen before.”

As of Friday, the COVID-19 case rate in Kane County is 45.5 per 100,000 residents, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Uche Onwuta, director of the division of health protection at the Kane County Health Department, said as of this week, the rate of hospitalizations is 5.2 per 100,000 people in the county, and less than 2.5% of the county’s hospital beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.

Liu said that possible reasons for the lower hospitalization rates are more immunity in the population, as well as the current circulating sub-variants of omicron, which seem to be less severe in many people.

“I think [Covid] will be part of our circulating diseases, and I hope it reaches levels of the flu, or even better,” he said. “When I do see people who come into the hospital, they tend to be older and unvaccinated. It’s not a huge number though. A lot of cases aren’t even reported because people are doing at-home tests, which could be even more encouraging, because we could have a lot of cases, but not much hospitalization.”

The Kane County Health Department is recommending elderly individuals or those at high-risk of severe disease wear masks when in public indoors, as the county is now listed in the “medium” transmission risk category. IDPH added Kane County to the medium transmission risk category on May 6, joining several surrounding counties.

“At the moderate level, universal masking isn’t recommended,” Onwuta said. “If we get to high risk, the recommendation will be for everyone to wear masks indoors. But those who feel the need to wear masks, their decisions should be respected.”

Liu emphasized that those who do contract the virus should contact their doctor immediately, as they may be eligible for anti-viral therapeutics such as Paxlovid.

“Your doctor has to prescribe it and it’s at most pharmacies now,” he said. “But people shouldn’t wait because it has to be taken within five days of symptom onset or a positive test to offset the high inflammatory reaction. Data has shown it to be pretty effective, so it’s important to get on the medication early on.”

But even though the medications are more widely available, Onwuta said, the Health Department is still strongly urging people to get vaccinated, and to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters.

“We’re better off this year than we have been in the past two years, thanks to vaccinations and some natural immunity, because so many people got infected with omicron in the winter,” she said. “We’re seeing more cases, but they’re mostly mild, so with immunity, they’re more mild than they would be [without vaccination].”

Onwuta said the Health Department continues to closely monitor the virus to better prepare for another surge or variant.

“Everyone is tired of Covid, and I’m hoping we don’t get to high transmission, but that will depend on the next variant,” she said. “We’re taking steps to make sure we’re ready for [the next one]. But with anything, what is most important is for people to get vaccinated. We’re continuing to advise the public to do the right things.”