CHICAGO (WLS) — Illinois public health officials reported 34,573 new COVID cases and 144 related deaths Wednesday as hospitalizations across the state have reached a record high.

There have been 2,522,953 total COVID cases, including 28,804 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 16.7%.

SEE ALSO: Mayor Lightfoot COVID update: Mayor plans to work from home during CDC-recommended isolation

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 237,157 new specimens for a total of 47,411,987 since the pandemic began.

As of Tuesday night, 7,219 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,131 patients were in the ICU and 650 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 19,779,403 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Tuesday, and 61.17% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 51,745.

WATCH | Pritzker announces help for hospitals struggling to stay staffed

Speaking at the Thompson Center Wednesday afternoon, Governor JB Pritzker said the state has deployed more than 2,000 healthcare workers across the state to help hospitals hardest hit by the influx of patients from COVID.

Pritzker also said his office has created COVID reaction teams with 2,037 healthcare workers in the field and 340 arriving over next 10 days.

We have also created COVID reaction teams to respond quickly to emerging crisis at hospitals and other healthcare facilities,” Pritzker said.

The governor also said it would help hospitals apply for federal help through FEMA.

“With unprecedented numbers of patients being hospitalized, we must do all that we can to keep our healthcare workers and institutions operating and available to all who need medical assistance,” he said.

Pritzker also said he is committed to keeping schools open. He said the state helped procure 350,000 COVID tests for Chicago Public Schools to help end the impasse between teachers and the school district.

“I will continue to work with all districts throughout the state to provide what they need to keep schools safe and open,” Pritzker said.

Chicago to distribute 1.5M KN95 face masks across city

Illinois’ top doctor sounded the alarm that Illinois hospitals are facing their greatest challenge yet with omicron.

“We have never had this many Covid patients in the hospital at any point in the pandemic,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of Illinois Dept. of Public Health. “Not Spring of 2020, Winter 2020. This is the absolute highest number, and not just by a couple.”

Hospitals are under pressure with more patients. In McHenry and Lake counties, only 10% of all ICU beds are available right now. In Kane and DuPage counties, it’s 9%. In suburban Cook County, just 8% of ICU beds are available. And it’s a similar situation in Chicago, where 7% of all ICU beds are available. Will and Kankakee are in the most dire situation, with only 5% of ICU beds are available. That’s 7 beds.

Hospital staffing across the board is critical.

“I was on a call with all the chief medical officers of the hospitals across the state today,” Ezike said. “They are all crying the same thing. They all need help.”

At some hospitals, like RUSH University Medical Center, help has arrived from FEMA and the state’s emergency management.

Rush has prepared for this moment, and the hospital’s epidemiologist Dr. John Segreti said they are better off this week when it comes to staffing.

“Mainly getting back in who have been out with illness. People who had COVID are coming back to work now,” Segreti said.

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association said in a statement Wednesday that a large majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

“It’s going to take all of us to end this pandemic together. Please-get vaccinated, boosted and mask up to prevent severe illness and hospitalization,” the statement said.

Ezike made the point that anyone who is vaccinated can share their experience with others they know who are not yet vaccinated, as the message can be more effective when it comes from someone you know.

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Source: ABC7

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