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McLean County sees drops in new COVID cases, hospitalizations and 2 more deaths

COVID Vaccine Clinic Sign
Eric Stock
The McLean County Health Department is exploring a new COVID vaccination clinic for 5-to-11-year-olds when they become eligible to receive the vaccine.
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Coronavirus caseloads have dropped nearly 40% in McLean County in the last month, according to data provided by the McLean County Health Department (MCHD) and compiled by WGLT.

MCHD announced 267 new weekly coronavirus cases on Wednesday. That’s the lowest weekly total since Aug. 4. More than 25% of those cases involve children under age 12, who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID vaccine.

Young children also make up the largest share of new cases (70), followed by people in their 30s (45) and those in their 20s (37).

County Health Department public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said it's still too early to say whether the county has turned the corner on COVID.

“As we are seeing the number of cases go down, that is very promising, but we are always keeping an eye on bigger indicators,” Manko said. “We want to see how the hospitalizations go, which are lagging indicators and how fatalities are also coming down.”

On Wednesday, McLean County reported two more COVID-related deaths: a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 90s. Both were in long-term care. There have been eight COVID-related deaths in the county in October. There were 12 in September, the highest monthly total since last winter.

Hospitalizations also have dropped over the last week: 17 McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s down from 24 on Tuesday. Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center report they have 25 COVID-19 patients receiving care. According to MCHD, 7% of Bloomington-Normal hospital beds are available, as are 23% of their ICU beds. Carle Health indicated 79% of its COVID patients across its network are not vaccinated, along with 89% of its patients in intensive care.

Manko said vaccinations have helped lower coronavirus caseloads. Currently, 54.8% of McLean County residents are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). New vaccinations dropped in the last week after an early surge.

Manko attributed the rise in vaccinations to booster shots and employer mandates.

“There are people (at the MCHD clinics) who are saying, ‘It’s mandated by my boss. It’s either that or doing a lot of testing and I’m not so opposed to it that I won’t get it,’” Manko said.

McLean County’s seven-day testing positivity rate held at 2.4%. That’s higher than the state average.

Youth vaccines

MCHD administrator Jessica McKnight said the county is working with pediatricians and other health care providers about plans for COVID vaccinations for 5-to-11-year-olds. They could be authorized to get the vaccine soon. McKnight said that could include mass clinics at Grossinger Motors Arena and at schools.

“We have a structure and a system for administering vaccine, not knowing that we have these healthcare providers that see these kiddos on a regular basis also, so we are going to do this as a community effort,” McKnight said.

The health department has held vaccination clinics in schools to get teachers, staff and older students vaccinated.

Vaccine incentives

Meanwhile, McLean County health officials say it's hard to predict whether a $1,000 incentive will encourage more county employees to get the COVID vaccine. The county board is scheduled to vote on the payments Thursday for employees who get the vaccine or already got jabbed. Manko suggested some vaccine-hesitant people can still be convinced to get the shot.

“We have met people during our vaccination clinics who were absolutely set on not getting the vaccine and then something changed their minds,” she said. “Usually, it’s seeing something happen to somebody that’s close to them or talking to a trusted medical professional who helped sway them.”

Manko said McLean County administration did not consult the health department about its incentive plan. The county would pay for the vaccinations through its federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding.

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