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The number of COVID-19 patients at local hospitals was relatively stable the last two weeks after increasing sharply during October and through most of November.

Confirmed COVID-19 patients and patients under investigation (PUI) fell to 42 yesterday from 49 on November 20 at AMITA Saint Francis Hospital Evanston. Confirmed COVID-19 patients increased to 27 from 20 the past ten days.

Despite the recent plateau, the number of patients is expected to increase over the next week, says Olga Solares, Associate Vice President of Communications and Media Relations for AMITA Saint Francis Hospital Evanston.  She cited people gathering together and traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays for the expected increase.

According to figures from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), more than 1 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and about 6 million people flew during Thanksgiving week.

Confirmed cases at NorthShore University HealthSystem Evanston and Glenbrook Hospitals were 133 yesterday, up slightly from 130 on November 24 and down from 146 on November 20. The bulk of NorthShore COVID-19 patients are at Glenbrook Hospital; 11 patients are at Evanston Hospital.

Neil Freedman, MD, head of pulmonary, critical care, allergy and immunology at NorthShore University HealthSystem, attributes the recent plateau in COVID cases and ICU levels to a holiday lull with less elective surgeries but also expects a “bump” in the current surge in the next week to ten days related to gatherings around Thanksgiving. 

“We don’t know what it will look like or how big it will be, but we have plans in place so we can fulfill our commitment to provide outstanding care and keep patients and staff safe,” said D. Freedman. Plans include delaying elective surgeries and reallocating staff such as registered nurses.

Dr. Freedman said NorthShore is seeing a broad spectrum of patients with people as young as 25 years-old on a ventilator and several patients in their 30s and 40s in ICU. “Despite what people may think, young people can get very sick.”

Current COVID-19 inpatient levels are below the peak reached last spring – 71 patients at Saint Francis and 180 to 200 patients at NorthShore.  However, colder weather is just beginning and the peak flu season still ahead.