Three Southern Illinois counties — Jackson, Williamson and Pulaski — are at a warning level for COVID-19 spread out of 30 statewide, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
IDPH releases a warning level list weekly, which the department says is intended to help local citizens and officials make informed decisions about gatherings and mitigation policies.
Jackson and Williamson counties both exceeded 1,000 cases of COVID-19 late last week, as measured since the pandemic began. Jackson County has been listed by IDPH at a warning level in the past, but had fallen off the list for several weeks running. Many of Jackson County's recently reported cases involve young people, some of which are affiliated with Southern Illinois University.
Williamson County has been listed at a warning level for several consecutive weeks as the county has experienced a recent spike in cases. More than 700 Williamson County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past month, and 22 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died since Aug. 10. To date, six nursing homes in Williamson County have experienced outbreaks, accounting for 163 cases and 13 deaths, according to the latest data available from IDPH.
A county enters a warning level when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase. Those risk indicators include such things as new cases per 100,000 people in a week, deaths, ER visits, hospital admissions and testing positivity rates. The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.
Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, IDPH said in a news release that some of the common reasons for rising case loads and outbreaks are associated with 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.
Some local jurisdictions are also beginning to report more cases associated with schools. General transmission of the virus in the community is also increasing, IDPH said.
Public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings. Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing, and are declining to provide local health officials information on close contacts. Further, mitigation measures, such as social distancing and mask wearing, are not enforced the same by law enforcement and state's attorneys across Illinois, IDPH said.
The other Illinois counties reported at a warning level this week are: Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, DeKalb, DuPage, Effingham, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jasper, Jersey, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Morgan, Schuyler, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Tazewell, Vermilion and Washington.
A map and information of each county’s status can be found on the IDPH website at dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics.
On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI