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Chicago Area Hospital Workers Concerned About COVID-19 Spikes

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There are COVID-19 concerns for Illinois hospitals.

The system was strained at the start of the pandemic. Now on the other side of the curve, health professionals are concerned it could be pushed to the limit once again.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole has more on the reasons why.

Illinois' positivity rate is a relatively low 2.6%. But COVID-19 is still with us. Health professionals are concerned that in spite of the lessons they've learned in tackling the disease: if we let down our guard, they will be overwhelmed.

Though Illinois has done a good job of masking up, distancing and slowly opening up, the science  shows there's still need  to be vigilant.

"We were not overwhelmed in Illinois, but we got close," said Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Cook County Department Of Public Health.

From a recent low of 462 on June 22, the number of cases has modestly ebbed and flowed, with 724 new cases confirmed Tuesday.  That pales in comparison to  Florida which last reported 7,793 new cases in one day. She said if there was a spike here, there would be problems.

"Our medical systems and care systems can absolutely be overwhelmed. There is no doubt that that can happen," Rubin said. "It makes me scared. It makes me nervous."

Rubin starts with reasons not to be nervous. We know more about how the disease is spread, implemented isolation practices in hospitals and locally we test and contact trace.

But those measures depend on a public that doesn't let down its guard.

"It's got to be almost everybody doing this," Rubin said.

Though hospitals that once struggled have managed to find adequate protection for workers, concerns remain.

"The problem is not behind us, because there are fundamental issues in the supply chain across the world," said Sean O'Grady, Chief Clinical Operations Officer of North Shore Healthsystem.

It was one of several healthcare facilities that had to furlough staff.

"The good part about furloughs is we have the ability to call people back at a moment's notice," O'Grady said.

Northshore successfully funneled patients to a special stand alone COVID-19 facility, but there is a human factor to take in if numbers spike.

"I think we are tired. I think people are fatigued," O'Grady said. "It is grueling and certainly is a challenge for people who have put themselves on the front lines to be caregivers every day."

O'Grady said he's not overly concerned because his hospital now knows how to respond.  But if the public doesn't do its job ,others warn that could push the system to its limits.

Push the system is another way of saying cost lives.

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