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

Children Drive Spike In McLean County COVID Cases

coronavirus under a microscope
McLean County announced 119 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

UPDATED 4 p.m. | Children make up the largest percentage of new coronavirus cases in McLean County, with the number of weekly cases reaching a three-month high.The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) reported 460 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases this week, including 119 new cases on Friday.

McLean County COVID-19 data
Credit McLean County Health Department
The McLean County Health Department reported 119 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

That’s the county’s highest single-day total of new cases since late January. The county has posted daily coronavirus totals that were higher in recent weeks, but those were three-day totals that included weekends.

According to county data, 24% of the county’s new cases (110) involve youth ages 17 and under. Nearly half of the new cases (228) include people under age 30.

MCHD public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said youth sports, particularly those played indoors, are driving the spike.

“We are finding more and more younger students who have been exposed to sporting events that (have) a lot of direct, face-to-face contact are now in isolation,” she said.

Manko added increased travel also is a factor in the higher caseload based on recent contact tracing, but she said it’s not clear how much of that is tied to spring break travel.

“Our schools are doing a good job of keeping people isolated and the spread isn’t occurring inside the schools,” Manko said.

Manko indicated that none of those cases involved children have required hospitalization. She said the youngest McLean County residents hospitalized with COVID in the last two weeks are ages 18 and 25. 

The said an "overwhelming majority" of those hospitalized are 60 and older. 

Brazil variant

Manko added the county also has confirmed one positive coronavirus test from the more contagious variant first detected in Brazil. She said the county is working to get the COVID test samples from the patient's close contacts to see if the variant has spread further.

Manko explained IDPH takes random samples of positive tests from across the state and tests for the variants.

The county health department reported one case of the UK variant last month.

This week, the Pritzker administration said there are nearly 500 reported cases of coronavirus variants in Illinois coming from the UK, Brazil, South Africa and California.

Record hospitalizations

A record 45 McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19. All but 2% of Bloomington-Normal hospital beds are full, while 88% of intensive care beds are occupied. Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center have 43 COVID patients under their care.

MCHD said 545 people are isolating at home and 119 people have recovered in the last 24 hours. The count of those who have been released from quarantine is 15,360.

McLean County’s seven-day testing positivity rate stands at 5.5%. That’s up slightly from Thursday and close to the cumulative rate of 5.6%, based on more than 288,900 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

McLean County’s COVID death told stands at 210.

COVID vaccinations

Meanwhile, McLean County has accelerated COVID vaccinations this week. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports more than 8,000 COVID vaccines were distributed in McLean County in the last three days. Overall, nearly 86,900 vaccines have gone into arms in McLean County.

More than 33,100 McLean County residents are considered fully vaccinated -- though the county’s rate of 19.2% trails the state rate of 20.9%.

Starting next week, all Illinoisans 16 and older will be eligible to sign up for the COVID vaccine. McLean County had planned the expanded availability in March. The Pritzker administration made it a statewide mandate this week.

Manko said it may take a while to get an appointment, noting vaccine supplies still aren't enough to meet demand. She said scheduling an appointment is starting to get easier after a slow vaccine rollout.

“We noticed that we could go 24 hours or even 36 hours without having everything filled,” Manko said. “When we opened (expanded eligibility) on Thursday for our new appointments, we did find that we filled up pretty quickly.”

Manko suggested people who can’t schedule an appointment to check back, adding appointments sometimes reopen because people over-book.

“Unfortunately, we found that people are making multiple appointments,” Manko explained. “They’ll go to the first one and see if it’s the type of vaccine that they want, or if they can find a different vaccine someplace else, they’ll cancel the others and those will become open.”

Manko said McLean County will get just over 3,000 first doses next week. She said another 3,500 Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccines will go to college students.

IDPH warning

McLean is one of 10 Illinois counties under a COVID warning from IPDH. McLean County’s rate of new coronavirus cases for the week of March 28-April 3 (266 per 100,000 residents) is more than five times higher than the state’s target. The county also is in a warning designation because of rising emergency room visits and hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Many of the counties under the warning designation are incCentral Illinois; including Champaign, Woodford, Tazewell, Peoria and Marshall counties.

The warning doesn’t trigger any restrictions, but it’s intended to help local health officials target their response to limit the spread of COVID infection.

Nursing homes

IDPH reported Friday one active coronavirus outbreak in a McLean County long-term care facility.

The Village at Mercy Creek in Normal reports eight coronavirus cases and no deaths, but no new cases have been reported at the retirement community in the last week.

There have been 22 outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living facilities since the start of the pandemic, according to IDPH, but the number of new cases has dropped as more residents and staff have been vaccinated.

The state considers an outbreak closed once a facility goes 28 days without any new cases.

IDPH reports 764 coronavirus cases and 125 deaths tied to long-term care facilities in McLean County since the start of the pandemic.

The largest COVID outbreak was at Heritage Health of Normal, where 137 residents and staff tested positive for the coronavirus and 29 died. The McLean County Nursing Home in Normal reported 18 COVID-related deaths and Westminster Village in Bloomington experienced 15 deaths.

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