IDPH director provides outlook of COVID-19 in Illinois

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra spoke with the Illinois Capitol...
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra spoke with the Illinois Capitol Bureau on October 18, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 4:20 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The new director of the Illinois Department of Public Health said the state is in much better shape to handle COVID-19 this fall, thanks to vaccines and other new treatments.

Dr. Sameer Vohra supports Gov. JB Pritzker’s decision to ease back on COVID-19 testing and face covering requirements for unvaccinated workers in healthcare and long-term care facilities. However, Vohra said that IDPH is aware that COVID-19 will evolve and the department is monitoring new variants like BF.7 and BQ1.1. Vohra noted that the new variants will build off of Omicron, the variant that made many people sick over the past year.

“These bivalent boosters are also geared to treat the BA.4 and BA.5 variants that are still the most kind of transmissible across Illinois and across the country,” Vohra said.

Vohra is hopeful that the new bivalent vaccines will hold up against new variants. While he understands that many people want to stop thinking about COVID-19, the director stressed that people should get up-to-date on their vaccines now while case rates are low.

IDPH reported 639 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and nine deaths Wednesday. The case rate seven-day average is 80 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, 966 people are hospitalized for COVID-related illnesses. 98 people are in the ICU and 30 of those patients are on ventilators.

Pritzker thanked Illinoisans earlier this week for helping move the COVID-19 pandemic closer to an endemic like the flu. Vohra said he also believes that Illinois is inching closer to an endemic phase. The director said many people who contract COVID-19 now only deal with mild symptoms if they are fully vaccinated. Although, Vohra said the state needs to continue protecting immunocompromised people and Illinoisans over 50 who are most vulnerable to severe illness.

“We’re hopeful, but I think prepared too,” Vohra said. “We’re preparing for a kind of winter surge in a way that we can treat it in our regular healthcare system that can take on the charge of this continuedly I think challenging infection. We’re hopeful that we’re really gearing toward the beginning of an endemic phase.”

Illinois has dealt with several winter surges throughout the pandemic. Vohra said people need to get vaccinated or boosted to be better protected before the winter surge starts. He also noted that people can talk with their doctor or healthcare provider about other treatment options if they don’t want a COVID-19 vaccine.

IDPH reported Wednesday that 38,014 vaccines were given over the last 24 hours. 85.9% of Illinoisans 12 and older have received at least one shot. 77.8% of those people are fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average for shots given is 32,681.

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.

Vohra said he would like everyone across the state to think of the frontline healthcare workers who faced their own challenges while trying to save lives throughout the pandemic. He noted that it has been an increasingly challenging time for medical professionals who continue to research and treat COVID-19 each day.

“We want people to know and appreciate all of their hard work. Healthcare workers should know that the state of Illinois appreciates that hard work,” Vohra said. “We look forward to everybody being preventative with their care and having a happy Halloween and holiday season throughout 2022.”

Copyright 2022 WGEM. All rights reserved.