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

McLean County: Expanded Vaccinations Could Be Delayed

COVID vaccines on table
Tim Shelley
McLean County exceeds the state average for the rate of people who have received both COVID vaccine doses.

UPDATED 4:25 P.M. | McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said she's not sure the county will be ready to expand COVID vaccine availability on the state's timeline.“One of our largest challenges is just the limited supply of vaccine at this moment and trying to plan ahead to expand to what does promise to encompass a large group of people," McKnight said Friday.

She said the health department only expects about 500 first doses from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) next week. That’s down from nearly 2,000 the department has received in recent weeks. That does not include the number of COVID vaccines that are delivered to community-based clinics such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

The state plans to expand eligibility to allow people with underlying health conditions to get the vaccine starting Feb. 25.

McKnight said IDPH’s planned eligibility expansion could be a sign they are planning for an increase in doses.

“I think there’s the expectation that the vaccine supply will increase in the coming months,” she said, adding the supply also is reduced to ensure people can get their second doses on time.

“We have a lot of second doses that are scheduled for next week,” she said.

IDPH reports 22,277 COVID vaccines have been put in people’s arms in McLean County so far, and 5,150 people have received both vaccine doses. For the first time, the county's rate of fully vaccinated (2.98%) exceeds the state average of 2.94%. IDPH reports 1,644,483 vaccines have been administered so far.

Long-term care facilities

McKnight said about 20 long-term care facilities in McLean County have received COVID vaccines, but fewer than 10 have received their second vaccine doses.

Those vaccines are administered through a federal partnership involving CVS and Walgreens. McKnight said IDPH started vaccinating skilled nursing facilities before vaccinating residents of assisted-living facilities.

According to IDPH, there have been 115 COVID-related deaths tied to long-term care facilities, including three in the last week. Heritage Health of Normal has had the most with 27.

Positivity rate drops 

McLean County’s coronavirus rolling testing positivity rate fell to its lowest level since August on Friday, but the drop in new cases has done little to improve hospital bed capacity in Bloomington-Normal.

MCHD reported 21 new confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases on Friday, while 81% of Bloomington-Normal’s intensive care beds are occupied. That’s the highest percentage of ICU beds in use since early January. The department said 89% of all hospital beds in the Twin Cities have a patient in them.

Fifteen McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19 and Twin City hospitals have 28 COVID-19 patients.

According to MCHD, 310 people are isolating at home and 13,689 county residents have been released from isolation and are considered quarantined.

McLean County’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 160.

The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate dropped to 2.1%. That’s the lowest it’s been since Aug. 18. The county’s cumulative positivity rate since the start of the pandemic is 6.2%, based on more than 228,800 tests conducted.

Vaccination clinics

MCHD has announced five vaccination clinics next week in partnership with Carle Bromenn Medical Center in Normal:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomington for those eligible residents due and scheduled for their second dose of vaccine and a limited number of first doses
  • Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the Activity and Recreation Center (ARC) in Normal for McLean County residents currently eligible for their first dose
  • Thursday, Feb. 18, at Grossinger for those eligible residents due and scheduled for their second dose of vaccine
  • Thursday, Feb. 18, at ARC for McLean county residents due and scheduled for their second dose of vaccine
  • Friday, Feb. 19, at Grossinger for McLean County residents due and scheduled for their second dose

Appointments are required and can be made through the MCHD website.

The county’s COVID-19 Call Center is available weekday from 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at (309) 888-5600 to assist people without computer access. 

Also, VA Illiana Health Care System has announced it is scheduling COVID-19 Moderna vaccination appointments for veterans who are 65 and older.

Veterans can schedule an appointment at VA's outpatient clinics in Bloomington, Decatur, Peoria and Springfield, or the main VA facility in Danville by calling (217) 554-444.

The VA has scheduled a community vaccination clinic at the Brookens Gymnasium in Urbana on Saturday, Feb. 13, by appointment only.

“We are committed to ensuring all veterans have access to the vaccine and are excited to be able to lower our age eligibility to 65. We look forward to expanding access further and are working hard to push the vaccines out to our enrolled veterans as quickly as we receive it,” said Zachary Sage, associate medical center director.

The McLean County Health Department will be closed Monday for President’s Day. The next daily COVID update will be issued on Tuesday.

Editor's note: WGLT corrected the number of reported COVID-related deaths tied to long-term care facilties in McLean County. 

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