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McLean County Pandemic Orange Alert Prompts Question About Behavior Choices

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McLean and Piatt Counties tripped a status change alert from the Illinois Department of Public Health because of a hike in new cases of COVID-19 and emergency room visits for COVID-like illness.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends residents in McLean and Piatt counties consider whether to curtail public activity now that certain metrics have prompted an orange alert pandemic status for both areas.

Counties must exceed limits in two or more out of eight categories to change status back to blue that indicates a county is experiencing overall stable COVID-19 metrics. Orange indicates there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county.

IDPH said questions for the public in areas under an orange status include: Should I still attend or host a large gathering? Are there additional precautions I should take given my personal/family health risks? Should I wait to dine out or go to a movie?

IDPH data show McLean County has 50 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population for the week of July 11-17. That’s precisely at the warning level for that category. McLean County emergency room visits for COVID-like illnesses also are rising as 2.1% of ER visits were for COVID-like symptoms that week.

Piatt County exceeded metrics in three categories in the most recent reporting data. Piatt County had 104 new cases per 100,000 population (limit 50). It’s testing positivity rate of 9.6% exceeded the limit of 8% for warning status. When the positivity rate is higher than allowed, IDPH begins looking at whether enough tests are done each week. Piatt County testing was judged to be insufficient.

State data show several other central Illinois counties have warning signs in a single category, but have not triggered an orange status by exceeding limits in two or more categories. Ford County had 106 new cases per 100,000 population. Logan County had 69/ /100,000. Champaign County exceeded the metric for adult emergency room visits for COVID-like illness. That’s supposed to be stable or decreasing, and in Champaign county it rose to 1.8% of ER visits.

Woodford County came close to the limit in one category, with 49 new cases per 100k population. Tazewell County had 36 new cases per 100,000 population.

The other metrics the state uses to classify status are: the number of hospital admissions for COVID-like illness, clusters of cases, ICU availability of at least 20% of capacity, and testing positivity rate of less than 8%.

McLean County Health Department officials have noted the contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus may be driving some of the increases in COVID cases in recent weeks.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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