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

McLean County To Host Spanish-Language Vaccine Forum

McLean County Health Department sign
Emily Bollinger
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WGLT
The McLean County Health Department reported 95 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

UPDATED 4:05 P.M. | The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) has announced its first Spanish language virtual town hall to address COVID vaccine hesitancy.The forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20 on Zoom.

“The goal is to discuss the science behind the vaccine, dispel myths and rumors, and assist members of the Hispanic/Latino community in overcoming any hesitancy they may have to get the vaccine,” the health department said in a news release.

McLean County worked with Western Avenue Community Center to develop the online forum. Participants will be able to submit written questions in Spanish to Dr. Gustavo Galue from OSF HealthCare and Dr. Liza Yambay from Carle Health.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Hispanic and Latino population makes up about 2.8% of the county’s vacination total, but they comprise more than 5% of the county’s population.
 

Marianne Manko
Credit Emily Bollinger / WGLT
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WGLT
Marianne Manko

MCHD public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said that shortfall goes beyond hesitancy. 

“We have asked people and done surveys and we have found a lot of it has to do with access, but we have not been able to pin that down,” Manko said. She said the county has also talked with IDPH about the disparity. That trend is reflected statewide.

Manko said the county plans to host more mobile clinics to help ensure those can want the vaccine can get it.

“For us, it’s really a matter of getting into targeted neighborhoods and being able to find where we would be able to do mobile clinics to be able to help people,” Manko said.

Manko said the county had Spanish-speaking nurses to help at a vaccination clinic at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington in February. She said the Hispanic population made up about 20% of those who were vaccinated at that clinic.

The health department hosted a mobile clinic on Friday at LeRoy Christian Church, and has another clinic planned for April 23 at the Lexington Community Center

New cases

McLean County reports 95 new coronavirus cases, while hospitalizations and active cases continue to climb.

Those positive tests came from a batch of about 2,400 tests conducted since Thursday.

According to MCHD, 644 people are isolating at home and 15,730 people have been released from isolation and are considered recovered.

The 482 new cases reported this week mark the highest weekly total since Jan. 15.

Manko said youth reports remain one of the primary drivers of new coronavirus cases. The Illinois High School Association recently allowed student-athletes to be unmasked while playing low-risk sports.

Manko said it's possible that could lead to more COVID spread.

“Anytime that there is somebody unmasked and they are less than six feet apart, and those mitigations aren’t being taken, then we are always concerned that there could be a spread of the virus of that causes COVID-19,” Manko said.

A record 54 McLean County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19 and 214 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Hospital capacity eased in Bloomington-Normal over the last 24 hours. Seven percent of hospital beds are available, up from 5%, while 81% of intensive care beds are in use. That’s down from 88% on Thursday.
Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center have 60 COVID patients under their care.

The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate dipped to 5.3%, while its cumulative positivity rate stands at 5.6% based on more than 299,400 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

Mitigations

MCHD administrator Jessica McKnight said increased COVID mitigations from the state don't appear to be imminent, even though the 20-county region is no longer meeting benchmarks. But McKnight said IDPH hasn't ruled out more restrictions if conditions don't improve.

“We just are urging the public to do everything they can right now,” McKnight said. “It’s personal responsibility, everybody helping us as a county and as a region to make some progress. We are seeing increased cases, increased hospitalizations.”

Region 2 that includes McLean County has a rolling testing positivity rate of 7.6%. That surpasses the state’s target of 6.5% to stay in Phase 4 mitigations.

The region has had less than 20% hospital bed capacity for the last week. The state calls for above 20% for three consecutive days.

The region also has had 10 days of increased COVID hospitalizations. The state seeks no sustained increases in seven of the last 10 days.

Vaccines

McLean County has surpassed 100,000 COVID vaccines distributed, according to IDPH. Just under 25% of county residents are fully vaccinated, while the same percentage of the state’s population is considered fully vaccinated.

McKnight said she's encouraged to see vaccine supplies from the state keep increasing, while demand is still there.

“We’ve got more to go because we want to get to 80% and have herd immunity,” McKnight said. “The interest (in vaccinations) is still there and what we are seeing now that is positive is that the supply is increasing slightly.”

The county has about 5,000 first doses to put into arms next week, according to McKnight. That compares with about 3,500 in recent weeks. 

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