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

McLean County Reports 2 COVID Deaths, Rising Hospitalizations

Social distancing sign
Eric Stock
McLean County plans to offer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at several clinics next week.

UPDATED 4:10 P.M. | McLean County health officials reported two more deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic on Friday as hospitalizations rose to their highest level in nearly three months.The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) reported the deaths of two men -- one in his 80s who was not associated with long-term care, and one in his 90s who was in a long-term care facility.

McLean County COVID-19 data
Credit McLean County Health Department
The McLean County Health Department reported 78 news coronavirus cases and two deaths on Friday.

The county’s death toll increased to 208. MCHD also subtracted one prior death from its count after the department discovered the person was not from McLean County.

The county reported 78 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases from a batch of about 1,700 tests recorded overnight. The brings the county’s total caseload since the start of the pandemic to 15,700.

The health department reported 38 McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s up seven from on Thursday and marks the highest single-day total since Jan. 7.

The health department does not have updated COVID data from Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center because of a technical error in its reporting system, the department said in a news release.

Weekly coronavirus cases are near a three-month high at 432. MCHD public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko repeated calls for people to follow public health guidelines if they plan to be around large gatherings this Easter weekend.

“We just don’t want people to take the risks that they have been taking and lately we have been seeing a relaxed attitude about these risks and now it not the time for that,” Manko said.

The county reported 502 people are isolating at home and 35 more people have recovered in the last 24 hours. A total of 14,952 coronavirus patients have completed their time in quarantine since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.

McLean County’s seven-day testing positivity rate rose to 5.5%, the highest it has been since Jan. 26.
The county’s cumulative positivity rate stands at 5.6%, based on more than 279,500 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

Travel restrictions eased

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has relaxed its guidelines for fully vaccinated people to travel.

The CDC said Friday people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to test for the coronavirus before they leave or isolate when they return.

MCHD administrator Jessica McKnight still urges caution if you must travel.

“No vaccine is 100%, so we still caution individuals who are fully vaccinated to still be cautious, especially when they are around high-risk individuals, especially high-risk individuals who may not be vaccinated already,” McKnight said.

COVID vaccines

More than 25,200 people are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 in McLean County, and more than 74,400 vaccine doses have been administered. The county’s rate of fully vaccinated (14.6%) trails the state average of 17.8, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

MCHD has announced its first COVID vaccination clinics outside of Bloomington-Normal. A clinic is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 9 at the Hudson Fire Department. Participants will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that only requires a single dose.

McKnight said rural residents may have a harder time getting to a clinic and some might be more hesitant to get the vaccine. She said a single dose makes it easier.

“We know there might be a less likely chance that someone would come back for the second dose and we want to make sure we are getting as many fully vaccinated people as we can,” said McKnight, adding the county also plans to schedule clinics in Lexington and Heyworth. 

The health department also plans to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at its Grossinger Motors Arena clinics on April 7, 9 and 10.

The clinics are available only to those in the Phase 1A, 1B and 1B+ populations. The vaccines will be available to all Illinoisans age 16 and older starting April 12.

McKnight said weekly vaccine supplies have increased, but it's hard to say if the county will have enough vaccines to meet increased demand when eligibility expands.

“It could be that we do see an increase in individuals that are signing up because we are going to have more people who are eligible, but we are going to be posting new clinics,” she said.

McKnight noted most vaccine appointments are getting booked within 24 to 48 hours.

According to IDPH, the health department has about 9,400 vaccines on hand and the county has about 12,000 vaccines in inventory. McKnight said a majority of the county’s supply is for second doses.

Wasted vaccines

IDPH data show about 1,600 COVID vaccines have gone to waste statewide. That's about 1 for every 3,600 shots that end up in someone's arm.

McKnight said the county had to throw out one vaccine because of a bad syringe.

She has said the health department shares any unused vaccines with other health providers to ensure they get used. She said there are other reasons why vaccines may have to be tossed. 

“That could be due to other issues, (the vaccines were) not stored at a proper temperature, storage and handling issues, syringe issues It’s more than just are we using vaccines at the end of a clinic," she said.

The vaccines have a short shelf life because they must be stored at freezing cold temperatures.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. That's colder than Antarctica in winter.

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