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Hospitals brace for post-Thanksgiving surge as Metro East COVID-19 cases increase

"We've been steady last week, but we anticipate because of the Thanksgiving events we're anticipating a surge," said Dr. Vinay Bhooma

ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. — "More people are getting exposed," said St. Clair County Health Director Barb Hohlt.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Metro East area is once again heading in the wrong direction, and Hohlt doesn't like the troubling trend.

"A lot of people are wearing masks. A lot of people are trying to follow the rules, but there are several people who aren't," explained Hohlt.

As a result, more Illinoisans are catching the virus.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Metro East's positivity rate increased for the second day in a row after more than a week of declines.

The rolling seven-day average for Region 4 was 14.3% on Tuesday, that's up from 14% on Monday.

"We must remember that not every person gets symptoms. People are moving around, even if they are asymptomatic," said Dr. Vinay Bhooma, the Chief Medical Officer at HSHS St. Elizabeth's Hospital in O'Fallon, Illinois.

"People are gathering," said Barb Hohlt.

RELATED: St. Louis pandemic task force says to self-quarantine if you traveled or gathered for Thanksgiving

Officials in the Metro East say the increase is due to more people attending Thanksgiving gatherings and apparently not wearing masks, practicing social distancing, gathering in small groups or washing their hands often.

"And because of the Thanksgiving events, we're anticipating a surge at our hospitals," added Dr. Bhooma.

"We have hospitals that are being overwhelmed. We are seeing numbers that we've never seen before in positive COVID cases, but not only in St. Clair County but throughout the metro area," said Barb Hohlt.

RELATED: Illinois to remain at Tier 3 mitigation levels across state in response to possible post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 effects

Illinois could receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December.

Meanwhile, officials try to remain optimistic.

"No, we are not discouraged. At the same time, we don't want the positive rate to go up even more. We are ready to deal with the surge," added Dr. Bhooma.

"Until there is a vaccine, our best fight against this virus is simply wearing masks, washing our hands often, practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible," said Hohlt.

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