Another death at Oak Hill; COVID cases at WHS

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Monroe County has had 876 total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with several new cases being reported daily as of late. 

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner reported 17 new cases Tuesday, two new cases Monday, five on Sunday, 12 on Saturday, eight on Friday, and 11 cases Thursday.

Wagner said Monday that Waterloo High School has five reported COVID cases among students, resulting in about 50 individuals under quarantine due to close contacts. Employees have also tested positive.

Wagner said his office cannot confirm a source and there does not appear to be a spread within the school at this time, but the situation is being watched carefully. 

Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron confirmed the cases and said the school is working with the health department to assist in contact tracing.

“We have not identified spread of the virus in our schools, which is why we are still open and operating,” Charron emphasized. “We currently feel confident that we have isolated all potential spread with the quarantines that are in place.”

Charron further said he is not aware of any of the individuals who were close contacts being sick and that the school is not in danger of closing due to spread of the virus. He said it may have some problems if more teachers get sick before others come off quarantine.

Charron also confirmed there has not been an outbreak at Zahnow Elementary School, despite rumors to the contrary.

There are more than 100 active cases and seven county residents hospitalized with the virus. Two new hospitalizations reported Thursday are residents from Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation in Waterloo and Integrity Healthcare of Columbia. About 700 Monroe County residents have recovered from the virus.

That news came as Oak Hill, located at 623 Hamacher Street in Waterloo, had its 12th resident die from complications associated with the virus. The death was reported Saturday morning. Wagner said the resident, a male in his 80s, had been hospitalized as part of the COVID outbreak at the county-run senior care facility.

Wagner reported two more deaths there last Saturday, a male and female in their 80s and 90s, and one more death Monday. The deceased in that case is a man in his 70s. 

“The person was a long-term COVID case,” Wagner said. “There was nothing strange about this death.”

For all of Monroe County, there have been 28 COVID-related deaths per the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Wagner said there are about 40 active coronavirus cases at Oak Hill among residents and staff, while the total cases are around 60.

Among current active cases are some students from Waterloo High School, per Wagner.

“We do have some students (with the virus) under isolation at WHS, and we have some quarantining because of contact (with positive cases,” Wagner said.

Wagner said he is not aware of students who have contracted the virus at Zahnow Elementary School.

Monroe County learned Friday that it made the IDPH list of counties at the warning level for the virus again. 

For the week of Oct. 4, Monroe County had 160 cases per 100,000 people (the goal is 50 or fewer), a positivity rate of 8.2 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent) and performed 631 tests (the goal is to perform enough tests to meet the positivity rate goal).

The county met all other criteria.

This news comes as the St. Louis region reported its biggest increase in COVID hospitalizations in nearly two months on Wednesday.

Illinois saw its highest number of new coronavirus cases in a single day since the pandemic began on Thursday and then again on Friday with a count of 4,554.

The largest single-day jump in active cases for Monroe County came Monday, when Wagner announced 22 new cases, though he said that appeared to be because laboratories sent him Tuesday’s data a few hours early. Only one case was reported Tuesday. 

Wagner said the uptick is not from the mobile testing site the Illinois Department of Public Health set up at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo this past Saturday and Sunday.  Another drive-up testing site will be at the same place this weekend. No appointments are being taken. Those sites use the more accurate molecular tests, per Wagner. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 453 cases (7,103 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 330 cases (2,435 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 37 cases (304 tests), according to the IDPH.

There was some good pandemic related news last week, as the metro east region is no longer subject to restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health lifted mitigation measures last Friday at 5 p.m., returning the region – which includes Monroe County – to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan. 

While the rate of testing in the metro east has remained relatively stable, the rolling average positivity rate in the region has fallen from a high of 10.5 percent on Aug. 27 to under the 6.5 percent threshold for removing mitigations. 

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate was 7.4 percent on Oct. 17.

The region initially moved to stricter mitigations on Aug. 18 after three consecutive days of a rolling positivity rate over 8 percent. 

More limitations were imposed Sept. 2 when the positivity rate continued rising. 

In Phase 4, indoor dining and bar service has resumed, gatherings of 50 or fewer people are allowed and restaurants and bars can return to normal hours of operation. 

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) celebrated the end of the mitigations while criticizing them again.

“I’m thankful that our businesses will now be able to operate at a higher capacity and hopeful that we will see many of the recently-lost jobs return to the area,” he said. “I do not believe these restrictions should have been enacted on the region in the first place because they were based on the wrong metric, which itself was based on flawed and incomplete data. Moving forward, I continue to urge the governor to focus on regional hospitalization rates, which are a much more accurate assessment of the actual COVID-19 situation.”

Wagner said last Thursday that a former resident of Integrity Healthcare in Columbia died from the novel coronavirus. That facility transfers its residents who test positive to locations in Carbondale or Alton, as those places have wings for individuals with COVID. 

That has caused some problems Wagner said they are ironing out with the state, as those individuals may not be included in their new home county’s numbers.

“We think that some of these numbers are not being counted correctly,” Wagner said. “There’s a lot of positives at Integrity that are not counted in our numbers.” 

The former Integrity resident who died, according to Wagner, was transferred to a hospital before going to the Carbondale facility.

In St. Clair County, there have been 8,541 total positive tests and 217 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 106,502 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 1,164 confirmed cases, 94 of which are active. Fifteen people have died from the virus in that county. A total of 14,953 people have been tested there.

Cases are surging statewide and in parts of the country again. 

Illinois is up to 350,875 cases of coronavirus and 9,277 deaths, according to the IDPH. There are 2,261 people in Illinois reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 489 were in the ICU and 195 patients were on ventilators.

A high-profile case in Illinois came last Friday when U.S. Rep Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) announced last Friday he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I am postponing my public event schedule but will continue conducting virtual meetings as I isolate at home,” Bost said. “We are taking this situation seriously and will continue to serve the people of Southern Illinois while doing our best while doing our best to ensure their health and safety.” 

Missouri has recorded 159,625 confirmed cases and 2,615 deaths. That includes 26,555 cases in St. Louis County and 7,771 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 8.2 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 220,523 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 40.5 million cases of coronavirus and over 1.1 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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