Five Southern Illinois counties are among 29 in the state that have been placed at a COVID-19 warning level, according to a Friday news release from Illinois Department of Public Health.
Jefferson, Pulaski, Randolph, Union and Williamson counties are at the warning level for COVID-19 spread, according to the release. Randolph, Union and Williamson counties were on the IDPH warning list last week, as well. The list is updated weekly on Fridays and uses data from the Saturday to Sunday of the week prior.
The release said a county goes on this list if “two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase.” Some of these indicators are:
- New cases per 100,000 people: If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
- Number of deaths: This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
- Weekly test positivity: This metric indicates a warning when the seven-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
- ICU availability: If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
- Weekly emergency department visits: This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
- Weekly hospital admissions: A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
- Tests performed: This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.
- Clusters: This metric looks at the percentage of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.
There is no set reason why counties are seeing a spike in COVID cases, however, the release said common causes included college parties, weddings, large gatherings, bars and clubs, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home.
A Friday news release from Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department reminded residents of the spike in cases, particularly in Williamson County, and asked them to practice mitigation techniques as they celebrate the Labor Day weekend.
The IDPH release said compliance with prevention measures has been mixed. It said public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings. It said some county and local law enforcement as well as states’ attorneys are not enforcing mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings. It added that some people are refusing to participate in contact tracing and some are waiting to be tested, believing symptoms to be seasonal allergies.
The release noted that several counties have taken swift action and are implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus. Those can include increased testing opportunities, working with schools, meeting with local leaders, and educating businesses and large venues about the importance of mitigation measures.
Jackson County, while not on the state's warning list, reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a single-day record. This news is something that Jackson County Health Department Administrator Bart Hagston finds troubling, and hopes county residents do, too.
"Today's daily record number of COVID-19 cases in Jackson County should serve as a wake-up call to those who stopped practicing, or never adopted, social distancing and mask wearing," Hagston wrote in a news release.
"As we head into the Labor Day weekend, it is vital that everyone buckle down, as gatherings this weekend may become the springboard for increased cases throughout the rest of September," Hagston wrote.
COVID-19 numbers in Southern Illinois
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