SPRINGFIELD, IL — Despite the past wave of COVID-19 decreasing and then leveling off, the number of total beds continued to decrease. Some say that doesn’t make any sense.
Asked Tuesday when he’ll remove the mask mandate for everyone indoors, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said hospitalizations are what he’s watching, and he’s concerned as the numbers are leveling off after going down for weeks.
“So the question is, is that just a temporary situation, are we going to start heading downward in those numbers,” Pritzker said.
Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski said the impact of the leveling must also take into account the total number of overall beds, which has decreased significantly during the pandemic.
“And if you think about it, that was the limiting factor on why we needed all these controls, and mandates, because we were worried about crowding the hospitals,” Dabrowski said. “Well, here you go, they’ve allowed 1,000 beds to disappear.”
On July 4, 2020, there were overall 3,922 ICU beds, most were being filled by non-COVID patients with hundreds of vacant beds. But, in November 2020, the Pritzker administration ordered hospitals to only report the number of beds that they can staff that day. After that, the total of ICU beds was 3,313 on Nov. 19, 2020. The overall number of ICU beds continued to decline through the most recent COVID-19 wave.
After weeks of declines, the COVID-19 numbers have leveled, but are still lower than the September peak. The overall number of ICU beds continued to drop, despite the peak. On Nov. 1, state data shows 3,059 total ICU beds.
“We’ve gone from nearly 4,000 ICU beds back in July of 2020 and now we’ve got about 3,000,” Dabrowski said. “They should have been protecting that number by spending more money, by having staff, and instead they’ve focused on so many other things but what they’ve done is they’ve allowed the bed capacity to drop and that doesn’t make sense at all and I think it’s a huge dereliction of duty.”
Dabrowski said part of the decrease in the total number of beds is staffing.
“They’ve also increased mandates, the vaccine mandates, which means they’ve lost more staffing,” Dabrowski said.
Some dispute vaccine mandates are driving health care employee shortages.
Hospitals say they base their bed availability on the daily situation, but they’re also dependent on the supply chains’ impacts on available medical supplies and available staffing.
For Nov. 2, 2021, the total number of ICU beds overall was 3,115.
Data on the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 website was adjusted Wednesday. The scale for the chart showing COVID-19 hospitalizations was double what the actual numbers totaled. An official with the department said with the new web design, they continue to work out coding issues to ensure the correct data sets and chart scales are displayed.