By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – As the COVID-19 death toll continues to mount, Gov. JB Pritzker and an official from the American Red Cross urged Illinoisans to donate blood to support the state’s health care infrastructure.
That’s one of the most important actions people can take to combat the virus, after wearing a mask keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding large gatherings and getting a flu shot, Pritzker said Thursday in Chicago during the daily COVID-19 briefing.
“Hospitals need blood right now more than ever,” Pritzker said. “It’s normally difficult to get blood donations around the holidays, but the pandemic has made it even harder to maintain an adequate blood supply. On top of COVID patients, there are still patients in need of transfusions all across the hospital, including those who need surgery or are undergoing cancer treatments, have chronic conditions such as sickle cell, or for those who experience accidents or trauma.”
Pritzker said several blood donation centers, including the Red Cross, are collecting convalescent plasma from people who are healthy and recovered from COVID-19, as the antibodies might help patients who are actively fighting the virus and will help health experts learn more about the virus.
Celena Roldán, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago and northern Illinois, said antibodies in convalescent plasma could be used in treatments helping those currently suffering from COVID-19.
“As part of this effort the Red Cross is also testing every blood donation for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies, and those donations may also now be processed into a convalescent plasma product to help patients battling this virus,” she said.
She urged all to make an appointment to donate blood by calling 1-800-Red-Cross or going online at redcross.org.
The call came as the state reported another 192 COVID-19 related deaths Thursday, making it one of the three deadliest days since the pandemic began. That brought the death toll to 12,830 among 759,562 confirmed or probable cases and more than 10.8 million test results reported.
Pritzker said rising death counts in Illinois and nationally should be enough evidence to convince people to follow social distancing and masking guidelines.
“I look at it and I say ‘how can people not follow the mitigations watching the number of people who are passing away, not just in the state of Illinois, but the thousands now a day, across the United States,’” He said. I just hope that people are heeding the mitigations that we’re asking them to follow. Because that ultimately is going to bring that death count down.”
He said in the first wave in the spring, cases came down after the peak, then hospitalizations, then ICU utilization, then deaths.
“Deaths are the last thing to come down,” he said. “Unfortunately, they lag all the other statistics. So, look, I don’t know if there’s any other thing that should be more powerful in people’s minds about why they ought to follow the mitigations and stay home right now, then the number of people who are passing away.”
Hospitalizations for the virus continued to trend downward, with 5,653 individuals with COVID-19 occupying hospital beds, the lowest number in 17 days. That included 1,170 patients in intensive care unit beds and 693 on ventilators, both decreases from the day prior.
Overall hospital and ICU bed availability decreased from the day prior, however, as the number of non-COVID-19 hospitalizations increased. Approximately 23.9 percent of hospital beds and 18.1 percent of ICU beds were available at the end of Wednesday.
As of Nov. 30, the latest data available showed none of the state’s 11 regions were meeting all of the thresholds to move away from strict Tier 3 mitigations.
Only Region 3, which includes the Springfield area and several surrounding counties, and Region 11, which includes only Chicago, were below a 12 percent rolling seven-day average positivity rate. Those regions had positivity rates of 11.2 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively, but had not met hospitalization thresholds necessary to move back into Tier 2.
Even if they were meeting hospitalization thresholds, which require 20 percent availability for hospital and ICU beds, Pritzker said this week regions would remain in Tier 3 “for the next few weeks even if they might be on track to meet those metrics.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more information from the governor’s daily briefing.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.