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COVID Delta Variant Concerns McLean County Health Officials

Person in mask touching screen of machine in research lab
Reditus Labs
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Dr. Mike Sgambelluri, Reditus research scientist, working with the Illumina NextSeq technology.

The rate of new coronavirus cases continues to drop in McLean County, but county officials say the presence of the more contagious delta variant is cause for concern.

One test sample taken from McLean County last month showed the variant — first detected in India — is present in McLean County.

McLean County Health Department (MCHD) public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said it’s not clear whether the person who contracted that COVID variant is from McLean County.

“We know (the variant) is present in McLean County and that’s the most important thing to know,” Manko said. “If it’s here, then it poses a danger to us.”

Pekin-based Reditus Labs, which runs the coronavirus testing site at the Interstate Center in Bloomington, detected the delta variant in two samples from a total of 369 samples collected in the last two weeks.

“There is concern as to whether the vaccines are as effective against the delta variant,” said Reditus CEO Aaron Rossi.

Reditus said in a news release the two delta variant cases it detected came from one person who lives in central Illinois and one person who lives in Michigan. Reditus also identified 181 cases of the alpha variant (from the United Kingdom) and 151 cases of the gamma variant (Brazil).

The head of the CDC has said the delta variant could become the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States this summer.

Manko said that makes it even more important for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s possible that it could lead to a rise in cases here in central Illinois, but we want to prevent that,” Manko said.

Manko indicated vaccines against the delta variant are still highly effective, even if they may be more effective against other coronavirus strains found in the United States.

“We are seeing a very slight resistance, but 88% is much better than 0%,” Manko said, referencing a report showing the Pfizer vaccine was 33% effective against the delta variant after one dose and 88% after the second dose. She noted the Moderna vaccine has similar results.

New cases down

McLean County announced added 16 coronavirus cases for the week.

The county also reported its 234th COVID-related death. It was a man in his 60s. He was not associated with long-term care.

No McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, while Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center report they have three COVID patients receiving treatment.

Twenty-four McLean County residents are isolating at home and 16 more people have been released from quarantine in the last week and are considered recovered.

McLean County’s total of confirmed and probable coronavirus cases has reached 18,453 since the start of the pandemic. The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate dropped to 0.5%, that’s below state and national averages. The county’s cumulative positivity rate since the start of the pandemic dropped to 5%, based on more than 365,900 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

Vaccinations drop

Meanwhile, the number of COVID vaccinations put in arms in McLean County dropped to a five-month low this week, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and compiled by WGLT.

IDPH reports 2,646 vaccines were distributed in the county from June 16-22. That’s down 40% from the previous week and the county’s lowest number since Jan 19, when vaccine supplies were far more limited and only a fraction of the population was eligible.

Manko characterized the flow of vaccinations as steady, noting that children under age 12 are still not eligible to get the vaccine.

“It’s difficult to know at this point if it is a trend since we still have a large portion of the population who cannot yet be vaccinated,” Manko said. “As more people who are eligible are vaccinated, and as the number of people most interested in getting vaccinated begin to narrow, we anticipate those total vaccine numbers to narrow as well."

Manko indicated the state of Illinois already has met the Biden administration’s initial goal of at least one vaccine dose in 70% of adults by July 4. That county-level data was not readily available.

McLean County’s fate of fully vaccinated is about 45.4%. That ranks 10th highest in Illinois, but it trails the state average of nearly 47%.

MCHD has announced several mobile clinics this week, in addition to its twice-a-week clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomington. The health department will offer the Pfizer and single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Sunnyside Park in Bloomington from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and will offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Pridefest in downtown Bloomington from 4-7 p.m. Saturday.

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