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Rockford hospitals overwhelmed, county to declare disaster

Friday, Dec 10, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Maggie Polsean at WREX TV

As local hospitals are overwhelmed with the highest number of Covid-19 patients they’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare professionals say suiting up is like walking through the five stages of grief.

“I say you go through those cycles probably 20 times in a shift,” says UW Health SwedishAmerican critical care unit nurse Emily O’Brien, “It hits you in different ways.”

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance becoming all too common feelings amongst nurses and doctors as they continue to fight Covid-19.

“I think there will be a lot that have PTSD after this,” says O’Brien. “I know a lot of people are seeking counseling, we’ve lost a lot of nurses. I don’t think anyone is emotional equipped to watch so many people suffer day in and day out.”

According to UW Health SwedishAmerican surgeon in chief Dr. James Cole, the health system has seen a 30% increase in need, but a reduction in staff. He says this has set up the system to operate in crisis mode.

“We have people quitting because they just can’t do this anymore,” says Dr. Cole, “they’re tired of all these sick patients with Covid, some are burned out, some truly have PTSD because of Covid and it’s lead to a massive staffing crisis.”

* Rockford Register Star

Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli is seeking to have the county declared a disaster in response to a rising rate of people being admitted into area hospitals with COVID-19.

The disaster would be over a seven-day period, effective Dec. 8.

The declaration is pending county board approval.

According to the Winnebago County Health Department, the County is now seeing 620 cases of the virus per 100,000 people and a test-positivity rate of 10.4%, an indication of another winter surge.

Chiarelli said declaring a disaster supports the efforts of the county health department and the local Emergency Management Agencies for the county and the City of Rockford to coordinate resources and activates the Emergency Operations Center. It will also make state and federal resources available to the county.

Chiarelli tested positive for the life-threatening virus on Nov. 3 and a week later he was hospitalized before being released on Nov. 13.

* And from the same news outlet

Just one day after the 16-team bracket was released, the annual Forreston holiday boys basketball tournament was canceled when the high school went to remote learning following a COVID-19 outbreak.

According to Forreston athletic director Kyle Zick, there were 19 positive COVID-19 cases traced back to the high school, and they were looking at quarantining 105 students, which was more than 40% of the school’s population. So instead, in conjunction with health department protocol, the school went into an adaptive pause expected to last from Dec. 7-17.


  1. - DuPage - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:41 am:

    I thought it was leveling off but instead it is increasing. I am getting worried about people I know who did not get vaccinated. I got the booster, shop on line/curbside pickup, and stay home most of the time. I don’t know what else I can do right now.

  2. - Name Witheld By Request - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:49 am:

    And yet I’m still seeing “Follow the Science, Unmask the kids” signs in my neighborhood and the local crazies are trying to team up with the mayor in Naperville to stop mask-wearing in the schools. What is wrong with people.

  3. - Norseman - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:49 am:

    Perhaps the Winnebago GOP can provide some answers since that party is spearheading anti-mask and anti-vax movement.

  4. - Jocko - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:49 am:

    ==Chiarelli tested positive for the life-threatening virus==

    I checked the article. Did he have the vaccine or booster? This should be no different than hearing someone hospitalized for not wearing a seatbelt in an accident

  5. - Middle Way - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:49 am:

    This is so sad because its very preventable if people used common sense, “loved their neighbor” through their actions, showed some self-discipline and thought beyond tribalism. The data shows the following, COVID-19 vaccines work very well to prevent severe illness (which then overwhelms hospitals and can keep people from getting other critically needed care) and masks can help cut down on transmission in tight enclosed spaces - particularly in times of high transmission such as the winter. While people should not be compelled to get the vaccine, it would be an appropriate nudge if corporations and public sector employers would simply pass through the higher, actuarially determined costs of not getting vaccinated to employees (e.g. Delta Airlines did this) in their premiums for health insurance. The video in the following link from Rep. Kinzinger speaks very well to the real-world problems that tribalism can cause Full disclosure - I’m a Republican.

  6. - Moe Berg - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:52 am:

    According to an article about a survey of 20,665 respondents at 124 institutions in the “December 2021 Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes”:

    “Approximately 1 in 3 physicians, APPs, and nurses surveyed intend to reduce work hours. One in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses intend to leave their practice altogether.”

    The healthcare system was grinding its workers down before the pandemic, but the last two years have accelerated the burnout.

    Big implications for those of us who may need care for other health issues - and another reason to be angry at those who won’t get vaccinated, as well as the politicians and media outlets pushing an anti-vax/mask message.

  7. - Independent - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:56 am:

    There is a strong and growing nihilistic movement that wants to see it all burn. Whether it’s eschewing mitigations allowing COVID to spread, or chipping away at the foundations of our Republic, they openly embrace chaos, lies, and destruction. Even if they read articles like these they would say “fake news” or “it’s no worse than the flu”. A couple days ago was the 42nd anniversary of the eradication of Smallpox thanks to…… drumroll……vaccines! How far we’ve devolved.

  8. - ArchPundit - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 9:59 am:

    All of this is complicated by the Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. We already had staffing shortages in these areas and retirements were ramping up and now…more losses of personnel. Working on the side of producing more nurses in education, its going to take time to replace these folks. Programs are limited in size and it takes at least a year and usually two to expand.

  9. - JS Mill - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:01 am:

    The forrestville school district (Forreston HS) have been very vigilant with masking. The AD twice stopped a Bball game to get masking compliance and I saw the AD go into the stand and give people masks. Given how hard they have tried to do the right thing, I feel badly for them. As much as the school is trying, the community is not helping. The Forreston supt. was one of the only pro mask enforcement speakers at one of the recent ISBE meetings.

    Winnebago county board members were vocally opposed to mitigations last spring/fall IIRC.

  10. - Middle Way - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:06 am:

    My bad on the Kinzinger link, had a period at end, the correct one is here It’s very on-point.

  11. - TheInvisibleMan - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:11 am:

    There’s a new social media campaign starting to spread around in certain groups, and the timing of it makes me wonder if it is being done deliberately and is using these established anti-mask groups as useful idiots.

    Text of the campaign below;

    “ACTION ITEM: Reach out to any potentially sympathetic city council members & request to add a resolution to the next meeting agenda. If sending email, voicemail, or public comment, simply state: “I support a city council resolution that will ensure local control on C0V!D mitigations.” Sample statement to provide is below & some upcoming city council dates are listed in comments.”

  12. - Shield - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:12 am:

    Between a Hard Rock ™.

  13. - illinifan - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:15 am:

    We are doomed. I hear too many parents saying they won’t vaccinate their children as they want to wait to see what happens. Not sure what they need to see, kids sick and in hospitals. Add to this the adults who refuse the vaccine, we have the recipe for expanded mutation of this virus. It is beyond depressing.

  14. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:16 am:

    Anyone heard more about those state agencies that were still having in-person, mandatory holiday parties (during the workday apparently) despite Omicron? This came up here on Tuesday. Hopefully some middle managers are at least disciplined over these required parties and were asked to cancel them.

    Fortunately I’m not aware of any supposedly required mandatory parties at my office since the George Ryan era. And since COVID potlucks, snack days, and even bringing a pizza or snacks to share with colleagues at work are all off limits at my office.

  15. - Glenn - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:20 am:

    Covid-19 vaccine was created by Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed”.

    I never voted for Trump but I am totally vaccinated because of science.

    If you don’t care about your own health, get vaccinated for the sake of the healthcare workers.

    Trump himself got vaccinated after his encounter with Covid-19 and his rescue by healthcare workers.

    The vaccine works without regard to political orientation.

    Non-vaccinated people were outraged at the suggestion that they should have to pay for their own Covid-19 treatment.

    Save yourself that worry. Trump already paid for the vaccine that largely eliminates the need for that worry.

    Your healthcare is not in jeopardy from anyone turning you away because of vaccination status.

    It’s in jeopardy because of burned out healthcare workers.

  16. - yinn - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:41 am:

    Watch for another bad spike in area nursing homes as well. Some have unintentionally admitted unvaxed and/or Covid-positive patients coming out of hospitals, and staff shortages are as acute as ever.

  17. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:48 am:

    ===Hopefully some middle managers are at least disciplined over these required parties and were asked to cancel them.===

    A middle manager disciplined at a state agency?

    Boy, that will be the day.

    Our State Bureaucracy is 100% dedicated to protecting it’s managers from consequences.

  18. - Demoralized - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 10:55 am:

    I don’t know about mandatory parties but we just had a Christmas potluck with about 40 people in attendance. I wasn’t the least bit concerned. I’m vaccinated and have had my booster and everyone else there was vaccinated too.

  19. - Jocko - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 11:12 am:

    ==everyone else there was vaccinated too.==

    Are you sure? More often than not, it’s not until they’re sick with Covid that you find out they’ve been swabbing weekly (which isn’t nearly often enough).

  20. - Demoralized - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 11:16 am:

    We know who in the office has been vaccinated.

  21. - thisjustinagain - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 12:16 pm:

    Fight the crazies this way; consider donating spare computer power to help conduct Covid research. Check out the Krembil Research Institute’s World Community Grid project, where your computer or smart phone can run computer simulations for Covid research. Or join the Folding@Home project doing Covid research:

  22. - Thomas Paine - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 12:35 pm:

    Does Senator Syverson still oppose masks and vaccines?

    As of two days ago, he was still posing for photos at large indoor gatherings with no masks on.

    You reap what you so, Winnebago County.

  23. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 2:03 pm:

    “What is wrong with people.”

    Humans are afflicted…with selfish ignorant greed.

  24. - Publius - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 2:05 pm:

    Maybe the Winnebago County Chairman Joe Chiarelli needs to apoligize for not taking this seriously before. Get the whole board to say the same thing and kick Tom Devore out of the county. That would be a good start. Then maybe he can appear with the Governor and say how serious this really is.

  25. - OneMan - Friday, Dec 10, 21 @ 2:10 pm:

    == Programs are limited in size and it takes at least a year and usually two to expand. ==
    It’s going to take even longer than that. I am going to focus on Nursing because that is the one I understand the best.

    Staffing of Educational Programs
    For clinical education components, the ratio of students to instructors is set by state law in Illinois. So you have to have more instructors by law to have more students.

    Back in 2015 80% of programs were actively trying to fill faculty vacancies.

    Any nursing program beyond LPN requires faculty members to have at least an MSN (Master of Science of Nursing degree).

    Just getting the staff to work in those programs is going to take some real time and effort.

    Physical Challenges
    Going to focus on NIU here, we visited the Nursing school pre-COVID for a 50th (I think it was that) anniversary program and got to tour the nursing building. It’s the same building my wife had classes in and that I worked part-time in as a student (that isn’t how we met). The building was an old grade school in DeKalb some distance off of campus. It was kind of cramped in the early 90s, it is really cramped today. Even if NIU were able to add faculty to expand enrolment I really don’t think it has the physical space to do it.

    In general Nursing programs require dedicated physical space for some of the educational components. The lab where you first learn how to manage the bedside, give shots, etc requires space for hospital beds, equipment, etc. They also require instructors to teach these skills in reasonable ratios (see above).

    We already have capacity problems.

    At NIU 1,000 students apply for 175 yearly slots in the Nursing program.

    How do we fix this

    There is some good news, accelerated BSN programs have grown in popularity and availability. These are programs where a student has a Bachelors degree and relevant classes and as a result, students are able to complete a BSN program quicker. These need to be expanded at additional campuses made available from the state university system. Most of the accelerated programs are private schools, lower-cost options should be encouraged.

    Start treating Nursing schools like other “schools” at our state colleges. Let’s build them buildings, this needs to start now with significant investment because it is going to take years to accomplish. Work to expand partnerships with the state community college system to provide pathways to BSN degrees at those facilities as well.

    Having a strong nursing (and other healthcare-related fields) education system will provide the state a significant advantage down the road. We are already seeing the impacts of shortages in rural areas. Imagine if students in those areas were able to get quality reasonable cost Nursing education in those areas via the community colleges and state schools the advantages having those locally grown nurses will have on smaller health systems around the state.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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