McLean County's testing positivity rate reached a new high Saturday, as authorities warned against risky behavior over the Labor Day weekend.
The county's positivity rate is now 11.7%. On Friday, that rate pushed McLean County into the state's warning level, along with 28 other counties statewide. The positivity rate has steadily risen ever since college students were asked to return to Bloomington-Normal in mid-August.
McLean County's surge in cases is getting national attention. It was ranked No. 6 on Saturday among metro areas with the greatest number of new cases per capita in the last two weeks, according to The New York Times.
McLean County is part of the Illinois Department of Public Health's Region 2, along with 19 other counties. The region's testing positivity rate is now 7.7%. If it hits 8% and stays there for three straight days, it will automatically trigger new state mitigations, as other regions already have experienced.
Illinois State University reported 12 new cases on Saturday, bringing its total number of students testing positive to 1,295. That's about 6.3% of the student body.
ISU's case totals may look different over the next several days because its on-campus testing sites are closed through Labor Day. Its two testing sites for asymptomatic students also closed Friday, meaning fewer students will be tested. They are still able to travel to Bloomington's Interstate Center to be tested.
Countywide, there were 187 new cases reported on Saturday. But it's unclear how many of those were college students. The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) has stopped providing detailed demographic information about new cases, such as their ages, gender, ZIP code, and ethnicity.
"We are working around the clock, prioritizing case investigation and contact tracing efforts, but are currently limited in our ability to provide timely data updates beyond the most essential information," health department Administrator Jessica McKnight said Saturday. "We are dedicated to being as transparent as possible, but may not be able to update the more detailed demographic information ... for our cases as often as we were previously doing."
Without that data, WGLT can only approximate how many of the new cases are college students. ISU has reported around 1,280 new cases since Aug. 17. The county as a whole has reported 1,761 new cases in that time, leaving about 480 apparent non-ISU cases in the community. That data is imprecise, given results are reported out at different times.
There are now six people hospitalized (unchanged from Friday), including two in intensive care, and 1,248 people who are isolating at home, according to MCHD. Those 1,254 active cases is another record high.
"The McLean County Health Department does not recommend holding gatherings this holiday weekend, but if you choose to gather be smart and safe in your planning," McKnight said. "Stay home if you are sick."
Illinois Wesleyan University has reported 81 total student cases, or about 4.9% of its student body.
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