Some see cause for concern, others see good news in COVID-19 metrics

(The Center Square) – Vaccination rates among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 in Illinois are over 90%, but state officials said young people catching and spreading the virus is one of the reasons that new mandates were needed.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s resurrected mask mandates in schools and youth sports are based on increased cases and hospitalizations, the administration says. Some who’ve tracked the data all pandemic say more information is needed.

Sangamon County Public Health Director Gail O’Neill said they’ve seen a spike in so-called cluster cases among young people at events like summer camps. Those are cases that can be linked to specific events.

“Last year there were a lot more people just staying home,” O’Neill told WMAY. “We didn’t see any of those unless they were in long-term care facilities. This year, after spring and summer started, they were traveling.”

In announcing mask mandates for schools and daycares this week, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said there’s an increase of COVID-hospitalizations in cases among young people.

“The percent of hospitalizations among those younger than 20 years old tripled from 2.5% to 7.8%,” Ezike said.

While the department does track the age of those who test positive for COVID-19 over time, the department’s hospital utilization data available on its website does not include the age of the patients.

When reached, the Illinois Department of Public Health didn’t immediately provide historical data of COVID-19 patients hospitalized or those in intensive care unit beds.

Wirepoints analyst Ted Dabrowski said that data is important at this stage of the pandemic.

“We need to know who’s ill and that way we can make better decisions about schools, about hospitals and about general opening up of the economy as fast as we can, not go backward instead,” Dabrowski said.

Dabrowski has been tracking the range of different data points from the state throughout the pandemic and doesn’t see cause for alarm.

“Right now we have massive usage of hospitalization beds but it’s not because of COVID, it’s from all other illnesses,” Dabrowski said. “And so we have lots of capacity if needed and the same goes for [intensive care unit beds].”

Dabrowski said the good news is 91.7% of the most vulnerable 65 and older population have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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