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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

McLean County Health Department To Share COVID-19 Info With First Responders

Testing swab
Ryan Denham
Mobile testing continues daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the McLean County Fairgrounds in Bloomington.

McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said Friday the department has started sharing information with first responders to warn them where suspected COVID-19 patients live so they can protect themselves from the virus.
“No names or dates of birth, only the minimal protective health information necessary to ensure that our first responders are able to don appropriate PPE and take precautions responding to situations where COVID-19 is suspected,” she said.

McKnight added the department is giving the information to emergency dispatchers for Bloomington and MetCom, which handles emergency calls for the rest of McLean County.

Meanwhile, the county announced six more COVID-19 cases on Friday. Ten more have recovered from the coronavirus.

According to the health department, the county has 75 positive COVID-19 cases, while 40 patients have recovered, four remain hospitalized including one in intensive care and 29 are in isolation. Two patients have died.

African Americans continue to have a disproportionate number of cases with 24. That’s about three times its population share in McLean County. Women make up 61% of cases in the county.

Gov. JB Pritzker has said Illinois is starting to bend the curve on COVID-19 cases, but McKnight said that might not the case locally.

“With the state of Illinois, some metropolitan areas saw cases earlier than we did,” McKnight said. “That’s something to take into account that a peak in one area may be a little bit ahead of another area.”

McKnight said it’s too soon to tell whether McLean County has reached its peak.

Jail Population

Criminal justice reform advocates have called for prosecutors and police to reduce the jail population to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. They want to keep only those considered to be an immediate public safety risk behind bars.

Don Knapp
Credit Jeff Smudde / WGLT
McLean County State's Attorney Don Knapp said he's noticed a rise in domestic violence cases in recent weeks.

McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp said inmates who have concerns for their health and safety can take it to court.

“Sometimes daily, certainly numerous times per week inmates bring their concerns to the judge and those hearings are held in court to decide whether it’s appropriate to release the individuals or not,” Knapp said.

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage has said he doesn’t plan to release inmates from the jail due to the coronavirus, but his office has started handling low-level offenses on the street to limit COVID-19 exposure.

Knapp said crime has been on the decline in McLean County since the shelter-in-place order took effect on March 21, especially since most of the college students have gone home for the spring, but he said he’s troubled by an apparent spike in domestic violence cases in the county.

“We can go days with seeing when I get in and start reviewing custodies at 6:45 every morning, there are entire days where the only people in custody are on domestics,” Knapp said. “That’s the most worrisome trend.”

Knapp said he doesn't have specifics numbers. He noted those domestic violence cases nearly always warrant an arrest, unlike lower-level offenses in which a defendant can be given a notice to appear in court, thereby limiting a police officer’s potential risk of COVID-19 infection.

Despite the drop in criminal cases in recent weeks, Knapp added the backlog of criminal cases caused by the courts closing for nearly all hearings will pose a challenge whenever the courts reopen.

“There’s going to be a little pain at the end of this, no doubt about it,” Knapp said.

The state of Illinois reported 1,465 new COVID-19 cases and 68 deaths on Friday. The state has confirmed 17,887 cases and 596 deaths.
COVID-19 testing remains available dailyat the McLean County Fairgrounds in Bloomington from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for health care workers, first responders and those showing symptoms. The clinic administered 136 tests on Thursday, and has averaged a little more than 100 tests daily. It has enough testing kits to perform 250 daily.

Coronavirus in McLean County
We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

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