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Parts of Southern Illinois see record spikes in COVID-19 cases

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Health department leaders are closely monitoring another COVID-19 surge across Southern Illinois as case counts and positivity rates this week near new heights — with no signs of slowing.  

Between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3, about 788 new cases were reported in Jackson County alone — for an average of 112 cases per day, according to the Jackson County Health Department. 

Experts note that fewer omicron patients required oxygen compared to those infected by previous variants. 

"The total over those 7 days is more than TWICE the total of cases seen during any other 7-day stretch on the pandemic,” the health department wrote in an alert to its Facebook page.

Surge of COVID-19 cases stresses Illinois health care

Other county health departments across Southern Illinois released its latest figures through social media or news releases saying large numbers of new cases were being added. 

Perry County has added 187 new cases between Tuesday and Thursday this week, according to posts on the health department’s Facebook page.

As of Thursday, Williamson County reported a new 7-day case total of 894 and Franklin County reported 351 new cases, up from 375 and 168 cases respectively, according to IDPH data.

Jefferson County's 7-day case total stood at 971 on Thursday, Jan. 6 — up from 137 on Dec. 30, according to IDPH data. 

Jamie Byrd, an administrator for Egyptian Health Department, said they are adding about 90 new cases per day.

“As of right now, Saline, White and Gallatin counties have around 42,000 resident and we have added 489 new cases in January,” Byrd said.

Nathan Ryder, of Southern Seven Health Department, said the department's highest number of new cases was 280 on Nov. 4, 2020.

“We’re not there yet, but we are quickly approaching the numbers of new cases from November and December 2020,” Ryder said.

Higher case numbers also drove up the positivity rates in Southern Illinois counties.

Washington's positivity rate was 26%, while Jackson was a close second with 23.2%, as of Thursday, according to IDPH data. Randolph and Williamson counties each had positivity rates near 22%.

The counties of White, Union, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin, Massac and Randolph had positivity rates in the middle to high teens. Three counties — Johnson, Hardin and Jefferson — had positivity rates in the single digits, but cases are increasing in all those counties, too.

While cases are increasing, IDPH has announced it is taking over some of the county duties, such as tracking cases and providing contact tracing for positive cases. Some of the counties are still tracking their cases; others are not.

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Byrd said Egyptian is showing slightly higher numbers than the state because they add reports they receive of positive cases from home tests.

Byrd and Ryder say the peak of the omicron variant — which is more contagious than past variants — has not happened. Originally, the variant was expected to arrive from mid-to-late January but omicron has spread quicker than that initial expectation.

The peak of the omicron variant is expected by the end of January or beginning of February.

“Right now, the No. 1 thing is people have to be responsible,” Ryder said. “Get vaccinated or keep from spreading the disease, which means wearing a mask, washing your hands and keeping your distance.”

Ryder and Byrd have one additional recommendation. Byrd said if you have any symptoms, you have a chance of getting sick with COVID-19 and need to stay home until you have a test that says you are negative for the virus.

“If you don’t feel good, stay home. You really need to heed the warning your body is giving you,” Ryder said.

SIH suspends some procedures

SIH announced Thursday morning it is suspending all elective procedures that require postoperative admission, an overnight stay or extended stay for recovery at both SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and SIH Herrin Hospital.

“This temporary suspension is necessitated to help free up clinical resources for critically ill and/or COVID-positive patients in greatest need of immediate care,” the press release read.

As of noon Wednesday, SIH reported that SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale had 24 COVID-19 patients, 10 who were fully vaccinated. Only two of them received boosters. Four patients were in the ICU, all on ventilators. Only one of them was vaccinated.

SIH Herrin Hospital had 37 patients, eight who were fully vaccinated. Only one had received a booster. Seven patients were in ICU, with four of them 4 on ventilators. None of the ICU patients were vaccinated.

Harrisburg Medical Center had two patients, one who was fully vaccinated. Booster information was not available.

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