Coronavirus cases continue across the region


Monroe County’s coronavirus case total has risen by 20 since June 23, and it saw potentially its 13th death from the virus last week. 

With 44 of the county’s 136 cases active and the slight rise in new cases the last two weeks, Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said he is not too concerned about the increase in new cases.

“A substantial number of those are households that have tested positive,” he explained, citing a family of five who all got COVID-19 as an example. “We have seen a slight uptick, and right now it’s something I’m watching, but it’s not enough to make me say ‘oh no, something’s going on’ yet.” 

“There’s really nothing that I’m seeing that shows big community spread right now,” Wagner added. “We’ve just had a couple cases that have (led to) multiple infections, where in the past most of our infections have caused just one case.” 

Five recent cases, reported on Wednesday, were among four members of the same household and one member of the general public. Two new cases were reported Friday and another two cases were reported Sunday.

Hopskeller Brewing Company, located at 116 E. Third Street in Waterloo, announced Thursday that one of its kitchen staff who was not on premise Wednesday tested positive for the virus.

“Due to our sanitation and mask policies, the nature of transmission and our layout, we’ve been informed that risk to any of our guests is, fortunately, absolutely minimal,” the business posted on Facebook. “We will be closed today for professional sanitation. Out of an abundance of caution, the kitchen will be closed indefinitely as our staff voluntarily quarantines and we assess the situation. In the spirit of caution, the bar will reopen tomorrow with an entirely new, outside staff. We are working hand in hand with the Monroe County Health Department; your health and the health of our employees is of the utmost concern to us, and we will continue to make decisions on those bases and with the health department’s guidance.”

The employee is not a resident of Monroe County.

On Sunday, Monroe County Clerk Jonathan McLean said an employee of his office at the courthouse has tested positive for COVID-19 and in accordance with health guidelines, the clerk’s office will remain closed until further notice.

“All employees of the Monroe County Clerk’s office have been instructed to quarantine for 14 days,” he said.

During this closure, title preparers, financial institutions and law firms are required to use e-recording services. All closing agents should consult with legal counsel and insurance company underwriters regarding the risks of closing transactions during this temporary office closure, McLean said.

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One of the cases last week was an employee at Waterloo’s Walmart. 

That person works in the automotive area of the store and had “very low risk or contact with the public,” Wagner said. 

The latest death is not certain yet. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported a 13th death here Thursday, but Wagner said that will be reviewed at a later date. 

He said the deceased is a woman in her 80s who initially tested positive as part of the outbreak at Garden Place in Columbia, was hospitalized and recovered. 

She was retested because she wanted to return to Garden Place, and she died the day after her test was taken. Her test came back negative for the virus. 

“She did not have coronavirus when she died,” Wagner told the Republic-Times. “Could she have died of complications from when she had it? She possibly could have. Or it may have been something different.”

On Monday, Wagner also announced that some COVID-19 testing may not have been as accurate as previously thought, though that is unlikely to apply to this case. 

“Any test site that asks you to swab your own nose has a high probability of being an inaccurate test and may provide a false negative,” Wagner said. “A proper test must consist of a nasopharyngeal swab and not nasal swab. It would be very difficult for an individual to do the swab themselves as it must be inserted extremely deep in the nose and not just be a nasal swab. If you have been tested using a self-administered nasal swab, the Monroe County Health Department suggests getting a properly administered test to rule out any false negative.”  

Overall, the county has seven residents hospitalized with COVID-19. 

According to the IDPH, the Waterloo zip code has had 70 confirmed cases (1,322 tests), the Columbia zip code has had 56 cases (507 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 13 cases (88 tests).

To the north, St. Clair County has 2,330 confirmed cases, including 144 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 20,440 people have been tested there.

To the south, Randolph County has had 292 confirmed cases, 11 of which are active. Seven people have died from the virus, 274 have recovered and none are hospitalized with it in that county. That county had no active cases for several days before adding 10 in three days last week.

“Please continue to follow the recommended guidelines and take additional precautions. Please practice social distancing, wear a mask when you cannot maintain a six foot space between yourself and others, wash hands often and use hand sanitizer if unable to use soap and water, refrain from unnecessary physical contact such as shaking hands,” said Randolph County Health Department Administrator Angela Oathout.

The virus still appears to be slowing across the region. 

In the southern region of the state, there is a positivity rate of 4 percent, a 1 percent increase in positivity rates and a 72 percent drop in hospital admissions for coronavirus-like illnesses in the last 14-28 days.

The region also has a 45 percent medical and surgical bed capacity, 47 percent ICU bed availability and 78 percent ventilator availability.

The IDPH also debuted a county-specific tool on its website when the region moved to the fourth phase of the state’s reopening plan to help individuals determine what activities they choose to do. 

The risk metrics measured are new cases per 100,000, number of deaths, test positivity percentage, number of test performed, emergency department visits for COVID-19-like illnesses, hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses, cluster percentage of cases and percentage of ICU beds available.

For all of the metrics save cluster percentage of cases, the state lists a target number and shows whether a county meets that target or exceeds. 

Monroe County meets all targets as of this week.

There are 148,452 cases of coronavirus and 7,063 deaths in all of Illinois, according to the IDPH.

The state reported 587 more cases and 37 more deaths on Tuesday. There were 614 new cases and 6 new deaths on Monday. There were 868 additional cases and 18 additional deaths on Friday. There were 869 more cases and 36 more deaths on Thursday. There were 828 new cases and 30 new deaths on Wednesday.

In Missouri, there were 24,629 confirmed cases and 1,042 deaths as of Tuesday. That includes 6,845 cases in St. Louis County and 2,589 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services. Individuals in both those municipalities are now required to wear face coverings when out in public.

Nationally, more than 2,982,115 people have contracted the virus, while 130,810 people have died. The United States is experiencing an increase in cases again, with the country reporting over 50,000 new cases in a day for the first time ever on Wednesday.

Worldwide, there are over 11.6 million cases of coronavirus and at least 539,670 COVID-19-related deaths.

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