No new mitigations for region

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The metro east will not face any additional mitigations to slow the spread of coronavirus in the region, according to St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern.

“The state shared with us that while they thought our numbers were looking better, they’re going to keep monitoring us. But for now, there will be no additional mitigations put on our local businesses,” Kern said in a video posted to the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Facebook page.

Kern said he learned of this update on a call with local leaders.

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner had not officially heard that the state would not impose new restrictions, but he was confident Kern’s information was correct.

“St. Clair County EMA has not been wrong yet on this type of news,” he said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced that all indoor service at bars and restaurants in the metro east were prohibited effective Sept. 2 to help slow the spread of the virus. 

According to the state’s coronavirus resurgence mitigation plan, if the region’s positivity rate remains over 8 percent after current restrictions have been in place for two weeks, more mitigation measures may be implemented. 

If it drops to an average between 6.5 and 8 percent, current restrictions will remain in place and the state will consider imposing more. If it falls to 6.5 percent or lower, current limitations will be lifted.

The region’s positivity rate has risen five days since Sept. 3, but it is falling overall. The metro east had a 9.2 percent positivity rate as of Sept. 12.

The region has also seen one day of hospitalization increases since Sept. 3. It has 32 percent hospital availability and 44 percent ICU bed availability.

The state not implementing more mitigation measures may come as a surprised to some given that Monroe County made the IDPH’s list of counties at the warning level for coronavirus for the third consecutive week on Friday.

Thirty counties, including every one in the metro east except Randolph, made the list. The data was from the week of Aug. 30.

“Public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings,” the IDPH said. “In some counties, local law enforcement and states’ attorneys are not enforcing important mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings. Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing and are not providing information on close contacts or answering the phone.”

For the week of Aug. 30, Monroe County had 221 cases per 100,000 people (the goal is 50 or fewer), a test positivity rate of 11.7 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent) and performed 545 tests (the goal is to do enough tests to meet the positivity rate goal).

The county met the other metrics of number of deaths, emergency department visits and hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses and ICU bed availability.

Despite meeting the state’s death metric, Wagner reported last Tuesday that another resident here has died from COVID-19, bringing the county’s death toll to 15, per the IDPH. 

Wagner said the deceased is a female in her 80s who died shortly after going to the hospital, adding the state has confirmed that coronavirus caused her death.

“She just came on our list probably about three days ago,” Wagner said. “It wasn’t a prolonged stay in the ICU or anything like that.”

Monroe County has had 592 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with 124 new cases since Sept. 1. 

Wagner reported seven new cases Tuesday, two new cases Monday, eight new cases Sunday, seven new cases Saturday, 13 new cases Friday, six new cases Thursday and eight new cases Wednesday.

At last count, there were 71 active cases and two residents hospitalized with the virus.

Wagner said his department is aware some businesses in the county are not complying with the new regulations. 

“We see it happening,” Wagner confirmed. “The problem with the new mitigations is there is no enforcement attached to it, so there’s nothing the health department can do other than inform them what the governor’s guidelines said.” 

A free community COVID testing event Sept. 4 in the Monroe County Annex building’s parking lot resulted in about 250 people tested, Wagner said. Not all of them were from Monroe County. 

Amid all this, Wagner dispelled a rumor he would soon recommend schools return to in-person learning – though he and his staff are regularly analyzing data on that front. 

“We’re monitoring, and we have a meeting this week with some of the schools, whether or not they could go to some sort of in-person or not,” Wagner said Tuesday. “We’re watching the numbers and everything.”

Wagner also predicted Monroe County will see a rise in cases in the coming weeks after Labor Day the same way it did after Independence Day. 

“I expect we’re going to have a jump for a week or two,” he said. “Obviously, people got together and more people were out than normal, so we will probably see a slight increase.” 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 289 cases (4,218 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 237 cases (1,759 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 26 cases (193 tests), according to the IDPH.

In St. Clair County, there have been 6,750 total positive tests and 180 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 76,126 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 894 confirmed cases, 91 of which are active. Twenty-five of the active cases are offenders at Menard Correctional Center. Eleven people have died from the virus in that county. A total of 10,877 people have been tested there.

Statewide, there are 264,210 cases of coronavirus and 8,332 deaths, according to the IDPH.

Missouri has recorded 105,396 confirmed cases and 1,732 deaths as of Tuesday. That includes 21,049 cases in St. Louis County and 6,534 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 6.5 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 194,713 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 29.3 million cases of coronavirus and at least 929,405 COVID-19-related deaths.

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