Pritzker blames unvaccinated as COVID patients fill Illinois hospitals amid Omicron surge

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker

Gov. JB Pritzker and other health officials from across Illinois on Monday identified unvaccinated people as the cause for healthcare systems stretched to their limits as the state experiences a fifth COVID wave driven by the virus’ extremely contagious Omicron variant.

Five-hundred new COVID patients were admitted to Illinois hospitals between Sunday and Monday — a number that represents a quadrupling of COVID patients hospitalized in Illinois since a late-October lull in the pandemic after the state’s battle with the Delta variant in late summer.

The vast majority of those hospitalized with COVID both in Illinois and across the U.S. continue to be unvaccinated people — a choice the governor panned at a Chicago news conference Monday, blaming the unvaccinated for taking up intensive care unit beds that may need to be used by “your ailing spouse or your parent or your child…someone with cancer or a heart attack or seriously injured in a car accident.”

As Illinois’ COVID hospitalization rate is on track to rivaling peaks from the early days of the pandemic and last winter’s surge, Pritzker warned of consequences for those who might be displaced from medical care.

“If we are forced to move to a crisis standard of care in our hospitals, it will be because massive numbers of unvaccinated people chose to let others go without quality care, and even more people will die,” he said.

But another invited speaker on Monday’s press conference program — Colleen Kannaday, president of Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal and Carle Eureka Hospital in central Illinois — laid out the inherent tension in blaming the unvaccinated while also asking them to get their COVID shots.

“I worry right now that our pleas to our communities in asking everyone to get vaccinated have become white noise and are actually causing some to bristle at the words,” Kannaday said, while acknowledging the majority of COVID patients in critical care areas of her two hospitals are unvaccinated.

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