Seven Illinois State University students have contracted COVID-19 at a gathering at a private residence. They are among McLean County’s 112 cases.
McLean County Health Department Communicable Disease Supervisor Melissa Graven said the gathering was in late April or early May. She didn’t have the location, but indicated the health department is looking into several gatherings where the students may have become infected.
“The disease has been present in our community for a while. The weather is nice, people are getting anxious and antsy and are possibly testing the measures of the social-distancing efforts and messaging that we have been trying to promote,” Graven said.
Graven said the seven students are isolating at home, while up to 12 more possible contacts who aren't showing symptoms are under quarantine.
Illinois State University spokesperson Eric Jome said the university wasn't notified of the coronavirus cases. He said unless the students were living on campus at the time, the university wouldn't expect notification. Most students have been living off campus since it closed in March.
"We encourage students, faculty and staff to take this very seriously and to look after their own health and the health of others," Jome said.
The health department reported two additional COVID-19 cases on Friday. The department said 20 patients are currently in home isolation, while two patients remain hospitalized. The total of 22 active cases marks the highest number for the county since April 14.
Eighty-seven patients have recovered from the virus, while three patients have died.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported on its website that 3,309 McLean County residents have tested for the coronavirus. That’s less than 2% of the population.
McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said the county has identified two facilities it can use for homeless or other populations who need to be quarantined due to COVID-19.
She said the temporary housing is also available for anyone who needs to be isolated from a loved one and that leaves them without a place to stay.
She said the federal government will reimburse all costs for the housing. She didn’t disclose the facilities, but said the county is seeking additional locations.
“We want to plan for more than we need, be overprepared so that we for sure would have the capacity that we need,” she said.
McLean County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator David Hopper said the types of buildings the county is looking for include hotels and schools or any facility that can offer a private living space.
“Then we can accommodate a living situation that allows them that separation and a private bathroom and then we account for meals and arrangements such as that,” Hopper said.
McKnight said the state has identified regional facilities in Peoria, Springfield and elsewhere that would be able to handle any overflow.
McKnight said the county hasn’t needed to use any of the housing yet.
The PATH Crisis Center is using federal funding to put eight people who are out on the street into a hotel for 20 days to limit their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, according to Executive Director Karen Zangerle. But after those 20 days are up they will be back on to the street, she said.
The McLean County Health Department's Melissa Graven said coronavirus mutations could impact how the county further plans for the pandemic.
She said viruses like these change all the time, but it's important to find out if the mutated virus is more contagious or limits immunity.
“It can affect planning in terms of what interventions or what vaccines and treatment modalities come out of that because if they mutate rapidly, that changes the ballgame of what’s going to work for a vaccine or treatment,’ Graven said.
Scientists say a new coronavirus strain has become the dominant strain across the globe since mid-March.
The state of Illinois announced 2,887 COVID-19 cases on Friday and 130 deaths, including a LaSalle County woman in her 40s and a Macon County man in his 50s. The Illinois Department of Public Health said the state’s COVID-19 county stands at 73,760 with 3,241 deaths.
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