Ninety patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and 24 patients are under investigation for infection with the coronavirus.
Hospitalizations of patients known to have COVID-19 have increased 73% in the past two weeks.
At the height of the spring surge, in mid- to late-April, there were about 140 COVID-19-positive patients hospitalized at the UCMC. At the beginning of October, there were nine.
As of Nov. 19, five patients were on ventilators.
"Growth of COVID cases is at record levels, and hospitalizations across Illinois have surpassed the peak we saw in the spring. In Chicago alone, the seven-day rolling positivity rate is 15.9% (up from 13.6%), and the seven-day rolling average of new daily cases is now 2,351 (vs 1,853 in the prior week)," wrote Dean Kenneth S. Polonsky and UCMC President Tom Jackiewicz to faculty, staff, students and residents on Nov. 19.
"Current infection rates translate roughly to 1 out of 18 residents being COVID-19 positive," they continued. "We expect the numbers to continue to increase over the next few weeks."
The UCMC is implementing a number of actions in response to the second surge:
- A new visitor policy is in effect for adult patients: no visitors are allowed for inpatients at the Hyde Park medical campus, no visitors can be with the patient in the emergency department, adult ambulatory care clinic, procedure and surgery patients may have one person with them providing transportation and assistance, and no visitors under 18 are allowed.
- Adequate personal protective equipment and testing supplies have been stockpiled.
- Space in the adult emergency department has been refurbished to create more long-term patient care areas, including 16 treatment beds, four examination rooms, waiting and triage areas
- More information is being given to employees on internal exposure risks to help them determine whether they should quarantine.
- Trailers for curbside testing clinics have been added for wintertime operations. So far, the UCMC labs have done 206,340 coronavirus tests, including 38,763 for the university.
- UCMC has developed a protocol to start administering antibody infusions to non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19 to shorten the length of their admissions or avoid them entirely.
"In a hopeful sign that this pandemic will eventually come to an end, we are expecting to receive the first doses of a COVID vaccine in December," Polonsky and Jackiewicz wrote. "UChicago Medicine’s vaccine taskforce has made early preparations to be one of the first centers for vaccine distribution and is coordinating with public health officials on the logistics at our hospital.
There are no longer any designated COVID-19 units at the hospital, as not everyone who has COVID-19 is hospitalized because they have the coronavirus. Sometimes trauma patients, for instance, come in and are found to have COVID-19, and they are grouped with other trauma patients. Cancer patients with the coronavirus get placed with other cancer patients.
The key is that patients who have the coronavirus get placed in negative-pressure rooms, designed to keep their air they breathe safely within them, so as not to spread the virus.