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

McLean County Ties Record For Monthly COVID Deaths

McLean County Health Department sign
Emily Bollinger
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WGLT
The McLean County Health Department announced 122 new coronavirus cases and six deaths on Friday.

UPDATED 5:30 P.M. | McLean County has matched December’s record number of 51 COVID-related deaths in January as the county reported six more deaths on Friday.They are the first COVID-related deaths reported this week as new coronavirus cases had started to decline while vaccines remain in limited supply. 

McLean County COVID-19 data
Credit McLean County Health Department
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The McLean County Health Department announced 122 new coronavirus cases and six deaths on Friday.

But Friday saw a surge with 122 new coronavirus cases, according to the McLean County Health Department (MCHD).

Two of the six most recent deaths -- a man and a woman both in their 90s -- resided at long-term care facilities. The other deaths involved two men in their 80s, a man in his 90s and a woman in her 90s.

That brings the county’s COVID death toll to 152.

The number of new coronavirus cases dropped to 366 this week, but hospital capacity remains limited. Just 12% of Bloomington-Normal hospital beds are available and 73% of intensive care beds are in use.

Twenty-one McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19; 18 COVID patients are in Bloomington-Normal hospitals.

MCHD said 503 people are isolating at home, and 13,092 people have been released from isolation and are considered recovered.

The county seven-day testing positivity rate rose to 5%, while the cumulative positivity rate rose to 6.5%, based on more than 213,400 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 4,156 new coronavirus cases and 71 deaths on Friday. The deaths include two residents from Tazewell County--a man in his 60s and woman in her 80s; as well as a Logan County man in his 50s and a Piatt County man in his 80s.

Vaccines

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine demand still far exceeds supply in McLean County.

“We definitely understand the public’s frustration,” said MCHD administrator Jessica McKnight, adding the county expects to get about 1,900 COVID vaccine doses next week. That does not include doses that may go to grocery stores and pharmacies.

According to IDPH, about 13,500 vaccine doses have been administered in McLean County. Slightly more than 2,000 people have received both doses. The county’s rate of fully vaccinated (1.19%), trails the state average of 1.53%.

The local health department previously said it planned to announce at least three vaccination clinics in conjunction with Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal. As of Friday afternoon, only one clinic had been posted on the department’s website.

McKnight said the health department may add clinics once they are assured there's enough for everyone who is due for a second dose.

She said MCHD has started to call health care workers to schedule their second vaccine doses next week.

“Right now, the week-to-week vaccine allotments we are getting, sometimes it’s last-minute,” she said.

The state is vaccinating residents in Phases 1A and 1B that includes frontline health care workers, people 65 and older and essential workers such as first responders, teachers and grocery store workers.

McKnight recommends people frequently check the health department website as vaccination clinics in McLean County have filled quickly.

She hopes the county will soon get more advanced notice, but said it's based on vaccine supply from the state.

“We are hearing about the possibility of even the state level and local level of knowing three weeks worth of what allotments will be and that will definitely help us better plan and open up even a month’s worth of clinics,” McKnight said.

McKnight said the department has added phone lines to handle the high volume of calls to its COVID call center.

“(We are getting) hundreds to thousands of calls a day right now,” she said. “All of our lines are definitely very busy and we’re just asking for the public’s patience. We know it’s been a long year for everyone.”

The call center opened on Jan. 15. The phone number is (309) 888-5600. It is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

McKnight added the department also is responding to emails as quickly as possible, but staff might not be able to get to everyone right away.

McKnight said they won't have to discard any unused COVID vaccines even if there are clinic no-shows. She said the department is ready to get those vaccines to health care workers who could quickly take them before they spoil.

“We have (Phase) 1A partners that are available at a moment’s notice,” McKnight said. “(There’s) lots of math going on during the clinic and keeping each other aware of where we are, how may doses remain, so we are trying not to scramble at the end of the day to use up vaccine.”

McKnight said demand for the vaccine has been so great, no-shows are rare.

COVID Deaths
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