The Illinois Department of Public Health announced today that EMS Region 3, which encompasses the entire WLDS/WEAI listening area, will be returning to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. The region joins several others in rolling back mitigations today as IDPH announced that they have created a Surge Staffing Program to support hospitals in expanding capacity.
Hospital leaders and local health departments have communicated to IDPH that their primary capacity challenge is the need for additional staffing and stressed that state-facilitated staffing contracts will be critical in addressing this challenge. With this surge staffing program, IDPH and hospital leaders feel confident that metrics can safely move away from utilizing medical/surgical bed limits to move across mitigation tiers, allowing more regions to advance. The adjustment also recognized the substantial progress the state has made in lowering COVID-19 infections since November 20th when the entire state moved to Tier 3 mitigation levels.
To address capacity issues reported by Illinois hospitals, IDPH, in partnership with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), has launched a surge staffing program. The program leverages the state’s larger contracting power to engage multiple staffing vendors and create access to a talent pool at greater scale than any individual hospital could achieve. Hospitals with rooms available to increase capacity but lacking the personnel to staff their beds may partner with the state to procure the staff they need. Hospitals that create orders will enter into a contract with the state to access this new staffing pool.
In this phase, gatherings of 50 or fewer people are allowed. Indoor dining and entertainment, such as movie theaters, are allowed with capacity limits in place. Outdoor sporting events are allowed to resume with spectators with capacity limits.
IDPH says that it will continue to monitor hospital needs along with test positivity to maintain the state’s progress away from COVID infections. Region 3 has had 11 consecutive days under 12% test positivity rate, 11 consecutive days above 20% ICU bed capacity, and 7 days of COVID-19 patient decreases in regional hospitals. As of Friday, Morgan County’s 7-day rolling test positivity was at 2.6%, which is second lowest in the region.
This is a developing story.