McHenry County hospital admissions at record level for COVID-19

Rise in virus cases puts pressure on local hospital systems

The number of people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 hit a pandemic record during the last week of December, McHenry County Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson said Thursday.

During a COVID-19 briefing to the McHenry County Board’s Public Health and Community Service committee, Adamson said county hospital inpatient admissions for the virus reached its highest point yet at 133. That eclipses the previous high of 127 admissions set in the fall 2020.

The news comes as local hospital systems report their highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations of the pandemic and hospitals push past their capacity limits. Both Advocate Aurora Health and Northwestern Medicine’s McHenry County hospitals reported this week they were seeing the most patients of the pandemic.

At Northwestern hospitals in McHenry County, officials said the hospitals were up to 130% capacity and up to half of everyone admitted to the hospital was there for COVID-19.

“Staff are starting to get sick, so there’s fewer people that can actually manage the patients,” Adamson said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s many, many people going into the hospital.”

The number of new people getting admitted to the hospital coupled with ongoing staffing shortages is putting stress on the system, however.

“We did get a communication through emergency management that all the hospitals are looking for staff and putting a call out,” said McHenry County Administrator Pete Austin.

It’s the first time in a while the hospitals have asked for help, Austin said.

As of Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported the McHenry and Lake counties region had ICU capacity at 15% – below the 20% benchmark the state previously used to trigger new restrictions. Hospitalizations also have increased for each of the past 10 days to 346 people Thursday, which is the most since Nov. 26, 2020.

“The whole state is in high transmission,” Adamson said.

McHenry County’s transmission rate was a 864.11 per 100,000 people as of Jan. 1, which is more than eight times the level considered high transmission, Adamson said. McHenry County health department data shows McHenry County has been in high transmission since early August.

The highest rates of transmission are happening among people between ages 20 to 29 and 30 to 34, Adamson said.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the county have been up since October and 21% of new hospital visits in the last week of December were related to the virus, Adamson said.

While much of the focus over the last month has been on the more infectious omicron variant, Adamson said the delta variant continues to be the main problem. She said the state reported 68% of cases as of Wednesday were of the delta variant.

The rise in cases also is straining testing resources locally. A testing site in McHenry at the former K-Mart closed to walk-in appointments earlier this week because of high demand. Demand for rapid tests is high and the rests are running out, Adamson said.

“The challenge is people will potentially not be able to do that instant rapid test, but will be able to do the PCR and wait a few days for results, so I think people are going to have to plan ahead for those things until that supply frees up,” she said, but added she is not sure when supply issues with tests will improve.

Adamson said people should be aware of potentially fraudulent testing and said no one should ever have to pay for COVID-19 test.

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