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McLean and most central Illinois counties are at low COVID risk after the CDC’s shift away from cases

McLean County Health Department sign
Emily Bollinger
/
WGLT
McLean County is currently at low risk of coronavirus spread, based on new data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.

This weekend will mark two years since then-President Trump declared a nationwide emergency to try stopping COVID-19.

Since then, the U.S. is approaching 1 million COVID deaths, while 6 million deaths have been recorded worldwide. However, new cases and hospitalizations have dropped sharply in McLean County and across much of the country in recent weeks. The state of Illinois has relaxed most COVID rules, including masking in public.

McLean County Health Department (MCHD) Administrator Jessica McKnight said the Centers for Disease Control's new way of measuring COVID risk is more accurate because it puts less emphasis on new cases and more on hospitalizations.

McLean County is currently as low risk.

“We have high rates of vaccination, high rates of boosters. We have antiviral medications, monoclonal antibody treatments,” McKnight said. “Where we are now is we accept that level of risk that we will see cases.”

Logan, Tazewell and Peoria counties are under medium risk for COVID-19 spread. Five downstate counties are at high risk. The CDC still advises people living in high-risk communities to wear a mask.

Jessica McKnight
McLean County
/
Jessica McKnight

There have been 361 COVID-related deaths in McLean County since the start of the pandemic. McLean County’s COVID vaccination rate is 61.8%, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The state average is 64%. About one-third of McLean County’s population has received a booster dose.

Masking

McKnight said the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is greatly reduced, especially for people who are fully vaccinated and who received a booster shot. She recommends people assess their risk based on a variety of factors, including their age, health and location.

The state of Illinois has removed mask requirements from most public settings, but McKnight said it's still a good idea to keep a mask handy in case you enter a high-risk area such as a nursing home or other congregant setting.

“We are all still hopefully keeping it with us, keeping one with you in the car or within your purse, so that if you are in that situation where it may be high-risk, you can put it on,” McKnight said.

The state of Illinois still requires masks in health care settings and on public transportation.

Lessons learned

Public health administrators have had to learn as they go throughout the pandemic, as they try to maintain ample access to masks, COVID tests and vaccines and tried to keep the public informed.

McKnight said the pandemic has reinforced the need for public messaging and collaboration with community partners that are critical during a public health crisis, but she said it remains a learning process.

“There’s no perfect preparation that will have a perfect response,” she said.

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