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New COVID Cases 'Overwhelmingly' Unvaccinated In McLean County

The McLean County Health Department is exploring a new mass COVID vaccination site to handle booster shots if needed.
Eric Stock
The McLean County Health Department is exploring a new mass COVID vaccination site to handle booster shots if needed.

McLean County health officials said Wednesday there's a common thread among an “overwhelming” majority of the recent coronavirus cases.

County Health Department public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said new infections are increasing “exponentially,” and most who get the virus are not fully vaccinated.

“They admit to the people they talk to at our call center, our contact tracers, that they ‘let their guard down’ and that they are now taking risks that they hadn’t taken these last few months,” Manko said.

Health experts have raised concerns about so-called breakthrough cases, where fully vaccinated people have contracted the coronavirus,but Manko indicated those cases in McLean County have been rare.

McLean County announced 58 new daily coronavirus cases and 395 over the last week. That includes 39 cases among children under age 12. They are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.

The county's weekly caseload is down slightly, but hospitalizations remain at a three-month high at 24. Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center report they have 37 COVID patients under their care (including those who live outside McLean County). The 58 positive tests came from a batch of about 2,100 returned overnight.

The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate dipped slightly to 4.4%.while the county’s cumulative positivity rate is 4.8% based on more than 421,900 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) said there are 463 people isolating at home while 19,333 people are considered recovered from COVID-19.

Booster shots

McLean County might not be done with mass vaccination clinics for COVID-19. The federal government plans to make COVID booster shots available to all fully vaccinated people by late September.

County Health Department administrator Jessica McKnight said the county wants to find out if there's enough capacity to distribute the doses between the health department's regular clinics and other locations where the vaccines are available now, including pharmacies and medical offices.

“Is the need able to be met right now? We are planning for the potential that we would have to set up mass vaccination again," McKnight said. "We don’t know yet what boosters will look like. We don’t know what the rollout might be.”

McKnight said the county is exploring several options for a vaccination site. The county hosted a COVID vaccine clinic at Grossinger Motors Arena for months.

McKnight said the county is still waiting for information on booster shots dosage and whether priority will be given to certain populations as they were when the vaccines were first distributed.

Federal regulators recommend a third vaccine dose after eight months, but the Biden administration could move that up to six months.

Fully vaccinated people who are immunocompromised are already eligible to get a third COVID vaccine dose.

COVID vaccines

McLean County's COVID vaccination rate dipped in the last week as schools have reopened. Manko said it remains to be seen how much the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine will prompt more people to get jabbed.

“Our vaccine nurses inside of our clinics are already having people tell them, ‘I made my appointment today to come in because it’s now fully FDA approved and that for me was the deciding factor,’” Manko said. “We are seeing it. How big that number will get ... it’s still relatively small now.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports more than 179,100 COVID vaccine doses have been administered in McLean County. More than 89,500 McLean County residents are considered fully vaccinated for a rate of 51.8%. The statewide vaccination rate is 52.7%.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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