UPDATED 5:35 P.M. | McLean County health officials reported a new one-day record of 222 coronavirus cases on Friday, while the county’s rolling testing positivity rate surged to its highest level since early December.
The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) has reported higher daily totals in the past, however those included multiple days of reporting, typically from weekends and holidays when the county doesn’t post daily updates.
The new cases bring the county's total of confirmed and probable coronavirus cases to 12,361.
The county also reported five additional COVID-related deaths, including four people who were associated with long-term care facilities: a man in his 60s, a woman in her 70s, a man in his 70s and a man in his 90s. Also, a woman in her 70s who was not associated with a long-term care facility, died, bringing the county’s COVID death toll to 121.
The number of McLean County residents hospitalized from COVID fell to 34 from Thursday’s record of 40. Bloomington-Normal’s hospital capacity remains largely unchanged at 84% of beds occupied, including 73% of ICU beds.
MCHD reported 988 coronavirus patients are isolating at home; 11,218 people have been released from isolation and are consider recovered.
County Health Department administrator Jessica McKnight said the county avoided a post-Thanksgiving spike in cases, but the more recent holiday break could be different.
“We did see probably a little bit more travel in the December holidays, so it’s something we continue to keep an eye on,” McKnight said.
The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate jumped to 11.1%, its highest mark since Dec. 2.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 9,277 new coronavirus cases and 126 additional deaths on Friday. Those include: five fatalities from Tazewell County--a man in his 40s and four women in their 70s; two from Livingston County--a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 90s; and one from Woodford County-- a man in his 90s.
McKnight said it likely will be February at the earliest before the county will be able to move to the Phase 1b vaccination priority group that includes people over age 65 and essential workers.
“It will take us several weeks to get through Phase 1a because it does encompass a lot of people in our county,” said McKnight, adding the county has vaccinated nearly 800 health care workers at its first clinics. She said that includes private physicians, dentists, hygienists, home health workers, COVID testing staff and other frontline health personnel. The total does not include vaccines given to hospitals and long-term care facilities.
McKnight said the county can start to move onto the next priority groups once they reach those in the first priority group who have opted out.
She said those who refuse a vaccine will still be able to get one later.
Gov. JB Pritzker has said regions that exceed certain health metrics could see relaxed mitigations as soon as Jan. 15. Region 2 that includes McLean County has met the benchmarks for several weeks.
McKnight said the region has to show that it can continue to meet those targets before it should expect to see more businesses reopen again.
“They don’t want us to be yo-yoing back and forth, so if we are maintaining these levels that have been set and based on science, we are going to need the community to continue doing all the (health protocols) even if we do relax those mitigation strategies,” McKnight said.
Pritzker has said the state doesn't want to have to quickly shut down again if there's a post-holiday spike.
McKnight added it's not clear who might be impacted.
“We don’t know what that actually means if that means we will go back further than Tier 2, or if it's Tier 1 mitigations,” she said.
A move to Tier 2 would allow banquet halls, museums and theaters to reopen. It also allows for indoor fitness classes and home gatherings beyond household members.
The mitigation metrics are based on testing postivity rates and hospital bed capacity.
All 11 regions of the state are currently in Tier 3, but six of those regions are meeting the benchmarks.
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