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THIS WEEK: Illinois could reduce mandates if COVID numbers continue to fall

EXCLUSIVE: News 8 talks one-on-one with Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike

MOLINE, Ill — As Illinois enters its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's seeing the latest surge in cases subside.

Case numbers dropped by about a third between Friday, January 28 and a week earlier.

"As we pass the peak of Omicron and those numbers continue to fall," said Illinois Public Health Department director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens".

There were 123,812 cases reported the week of January 28.  There were 843 deaths.

There were 183,722 cases report the week of January 21 with 746 deaths.

"We know that the deaths will come down," said Dr. Ezike.  

"We know that the deaths lag after the hospitalization and so since we are seeing the hospitalized patients, those numbers are coming down, the deaths associated with that will come down."

You can listen to our entire interview with Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on THE CITIES PODCAST.

"We continue to have overall very good news in terms of making progress against COVID 19," said Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady at a news conference touting Chicago's falling numbers.

It was two years on January 24th when Chicago reported the first Illinois case of COVID.

January 30, 2020 was the date of the second case, the first human to human transmission reported in the United States.

It was the spouse of patient number one.

Since then, Illinois has reported 2.89 million cases and 30,688 deaths.

(The first Rock Island County case was reported in March 2020)

"I have to admit that I think we are looking to a future where COVID is a part of our lives," said Dr. Ezike.

Dr. Ezike tells News 8 she expects the number of deaths to fall as the Omicron surge subsides.

And then we'll face yet another new normal.

"So instead of feeling like we are constantly in crisis mode with COVID, we need to get to the point where we're just co-existing with COVID." 

She tells News 8 that mask mandates may be reconsidered in Illinois as hospital case loads lessen.

Dr. Ezike says hospitalizations have dropped from a peak of 7400 Illinois patients to about 4500.

She says the stress on hospitals will be a major factor in any state changes to COVID mandates.

"As that number continues to go down, we will be at a level where we can think about taking off that mask because we can handle in our hospitals, the load of patients and everybody can get the care they need."

And while she stresses the vaccines are the best weapon against the virus, new breakthroughs down the road will also lead to minimizing COVID's impact.

"And we are also seeing on the horizon, right now only in small quantities, the monoclonal anti-bodies, some oral therapies, so when that production increases and the availability of that is more widespread, that's another important piece in our arsenal in which we have to fight the pandemic."

You can watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sunday mornings at 10 on WQAD News 8.