CARBONDALE — Five Southern Illinois counties made this week’s Illinois Department of Public Health’s undesirable “warning level” list for the spread of COVID-19: Jackson, Perry, Saline, Union and Williamson.
Three of these counties — Jackson, Perry and Saline — are repeats from the week prior. Four other regional counties who were on the list last week — Gallatin, Johnson, Randolph and White — dropped off this week’s warning level list. However, that doesn’t mean the coronavirus has gone away there, and residents are still advised to take precaution and follow all health guidelines.
A county enters a warning level when it meets two or more COVID-19 risk indicators, which examine such factors as testing positivity rates, emergency department visits and the number of deaths among people diagnosed with COVID-19.
The five Southern Illinois counties currently at a warning level are among 13 statewide. The others are Cass, Coles, Grundy, Iroquois, Monroe, St. Clair, Tazewell and Winnebago counties.
According to IDPH, these counties collectively saw cases or outbreaks associated with businesses, long-term care facilities, large social gatherings and out-of-state travel. There have been several instances of multiple cases among family members in the same, large household.
Students returning to universities and colleges are also driving the recent increase in cases in several communities, including Carbondale. Many students are not wearing face coverings or social distancing and are gathering in large groups and at bars, IDPH said.
In Jackson County, the majority of new cases in recent weeks has been attributed to people in their teens and 20s. Between July 26 and Aug. 1, the county saw a new case rate of 199 people per 100,000. The target rate is less than 50 people per 100,000. As well, 8.1% of people who were tested for COVID-19 during that time frame tested positive, slightly more than the target rate of 8% or less.
Pritzker visited Carbondale on Tuesday to sound the alarm on the concerning rise of cases throughout the region. He noted that on a per capita basis, the spread of coronovirus across much of Southern Illinois is “worse than in Chicago” — the epicenter of the outbreak at the beginning of the pandemic in Illinois. He urged people to wear masks and limit gatherings, noting that a continued rise in cases could lead to more people getting severely sick and dying, and the closure of businesses in order to get it under control.
Perry County’s new case rate during the covered period was 161 people per 100,000. It saw a testing positivity rate of 12.2%.
Union County’s new case rate was 202 per 100,000 — the highest among the Southern Illinois counties on the list. It had a testing positivity rate of 15.7%.
Saline County’s new case rate was 125 people testing positive per 100,000. It saw a test positivity rate of 10.7%.
Jackson, Perry, Union and Saline counties were also flagged for insufficient testing, which is automatic when a county’s positivity rate rises above 8%.
Williamson County reported a new case rate of 95 people per 100,000. As well, Williamson County has seen an increase in people seeking emergency department care for COVID-19-like symptoms. Its testing positivity rate was below the threshold, at 6.8%.
IDPH said that several counties are “taking swift action” and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus. The agency said that includes local officials working with university administrators for student education and contact tracing, working with county boards of health, and cancelling events and festivals.
The purpose of the metrics, IDPH said, is to provide local level awareness and to help guide local leaders, businesses, health departments and members of the public in making informed decisions.
The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.
A map and information of each county’s status can be found on the IDPH website at https://www.dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics.
On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI
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