COVID deaths rise to 85

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Monroe County reported five more COVID-related deaths in recent days, putting the death toll at 85.

On Tuesday, Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner reported the death of a man in his 90s from a long-term care facility.

On Monday, Wagner reported the deaths of a woman in her 30s who tested positive in October and died in January, a woman in her 80s who tested positive in October and died in January, a man in his 90s who tested positive in December and died in January and a man in his 70s not associated with a long-term care facility who recently died in a hospital.

Wagner said the Monroe County coroner has not determined the cause of death of the woman in her 30s and ruled the man’s death was due to congestive heart failure.

“It appears the state is listing anyone who has had COVID in the past as a COVID death even when county coroners have determined it to be something else or has not yet determined,” Wagner said.

That news comes as the county is preparing to hold another vaccine clinic for members of the public.

The county will hold a clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday for people age 75 and older.

Wagner said the county got approximately 1,000 doses for this clinic, which should be “plenty to get through that age group.” That means individuals need not fear the county running out of vaccine for people 75 and above, so they can come to the clinic at their convenience.

There is no registration for this clinic, which will take place regardless of the weather. Vehicles that arrive before 10 a.m. will be turned away. You must provide proof of residence and age.

Last week, Monroe County added four more deaths from the novel coronavirus and hosted two more vaccination clinics in an effort to protect residents from the illness. 

Wagner on Feb. 1 reported the deaths of a man and woman, both in their 70s and not associated with long-term care. On Jan. 31, the death of a man in his 60s not associated with a long-term care was reported. The death of a woman in her 90s who lived at Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo was reported Friday.

Region 4, which is the metro east and includes Monroe County, moved to Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois coronavirus response plan on Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.

To move to Phase 4, a region must have a test positivity rate at 6.5 percent or below and ICU bed availability of 20 percent or higher for three consecutive days based on a seven-day rolling average. The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east has remained at 6.5 percent and ICU bed availability has held at 20 percent the past two days, per metrics made available by the IDPH.

This region met all those metrics, skipping over Tier 1 mitigations. The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east was 5.7 percent on Feb. 6. The region has 28 percent of its ICU staffed beds available.

In Phase 4, a number of limitations are lessened. Restaurants can open indoors with limited capacity and following strict public health procedures, including personal protective equipment for employees. Gatherings of 50 people or fewer will be permitted. Phase 4 also allows for more youth and recreational sports, including high school basketball competition in the region. Read more on Phase 4 guidelines by clicking here.

“IDPH will continue to closely monitor test positivity, ICU bed availability and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19,” the state said in its announcement. “Should data show regions trending in the wrong direction, based on the established mitigation metrics, regions could once again find themselves in a higher tier with increased mitigations.”

Vaccination clinics for members of the public took place Thursday and Monday at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, with many local residents turned away both times due to available doses being used up quickly.

“We exceeded our expectations on speed as far as how much we thought we could do there,” Wagner said after Monday’s clinic. “We were expecting 125 people per hour, but with a lot of two people per car deals, we exceeded that.”

Less than 400 doses were made available for Monroe County residents ages 75 and older and health care workers with direct patient contact on Thursday. Registration for this round of vaccines was full almost immediately after the health department announced the clinic last Wednesday afternoon.

Approximately the same amount of doses were available for residents age 80 and older from 10 a.m. to noon Monday. Residents 75 and up were set to get the vaccine from noon to 3 p.m., but the county ran out before then and had to turn people away. 

The county did not have people register for last Monday’s clinic beforehand, citing many individuals in the age group not having internet access. 

Wagner said that system is imperfect but worked fairly well. 

“It’s frustrating for people to get turned away when we run out of vaccine, but it’s the only way we can do it,” he said. 

Per the Illinois Department of Public Health, Monroe County has administered 3,319 doses of COVID vaccine. There are 676 people fully vaccinated here, meaning 1.97 percent of the county has received both shots. 

Illinois overall has administered 1,417,156 doses of the vaccine and received over 2.1 million doses. A total of 311,569 residents have gotten both shots, which means 2.45 percent of Illinois is fully vaccinated. 

Wagner said he remains unsatisfied with the amount of vaccine Monroe County is receiving from the state, a frustration exacerbated by a mass vaccination site at the fairgrounds in St. Clair County that is slated to vaccinate around 1,000 people per day, six days a week, with the help of the National Guard. 

Wagner said his department has the capability to vaccinate far more people here if he could get the shots needed. 

“They’re clearly getting additional vaccine from the state, somehow. I’ve been trying to get more vaccine for our clinic for the last six weeks and I get no answers,” he said before promising to update the public when he gets an answer. “If it’s population-based, that’s fine, but if you’re giving them vaccine based on population plus more, then I want some more. I’m not upset they’re getting additional doses, but I need to make sure I’m getting additional doses.”

“I’m waiting to hear back from the state to hear their explanation,” Wagner added. “I don’t know if it’s a Democratic county, so they’re looking at it more favorably than Monroe County that has been a thorn in their side for calling them out on things.” 

The St. Clair County vaccination site is only for residents of that county. 

State Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) also decried what she called “vaccine inequity,” using Monroe County as an example of an area that has not gotten its fair share of vaccine.

“Our residents have done what they can to prevent the spread of this virus and helped protect our communities. Now it’s time for the Governor to do his part and provide access to the vaccine,” said Bryant. 

For more on frustrations surrounding the vaccine rollout, click here.

Wagner last Tuesday dispelled a rumor that Region 4, which includes Monroe County, would imminently move to Tier 1 mitigations. 

“It’s not going to (change) unless they change the criteria,” Wagner said, arguing that hospitals will frequently be near capacity in the metro east because they receive patients, particularly ICU patients, from surrounding rural hospitals that do not have the capacity or capability to handle these individuals. “It’s the region that they want to pick on. They set up the criteria so that it doesn’t make any sense for us.” 

Monroe County’s case total since the pandemic began is 3,959, with 205 new cases since Jan. 27. 

The county reported 12 cases Tuesday. eight cases Monday, 20 cases Saturday, 19 cases Friday, 30 cases Thursday and 20 cases Wednesday.

There are 261 active cases in Monroe County, including 28 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 2,024 cases (21,352 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,503 cases (9,479 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 154 cases (827 tests), according to the IDPH.

Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average test positivity rate was 6.5 percent as of Feb. 5.

Free mobile COVID testing takes place Feb. 10 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Monroe County Annex, located at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo.

In St. Clair County, there have been 26,790 total positive tests and 425 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 265,884 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 3,930 confirmed cases, 43 of which are active. Seventy-eight people have died from the virus there.

Illinois overall is up to 1,150,170 cases of coronavirus and 19,686 deaths.

There are 2,161 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 497 people in ICU beds and 240 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 467,313 confirmed cases and 7,149 deaths. That includes 72,086 cases in St. Louis County and 18,697 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 27.1 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 464,921 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 106.5 million cases of coronavirus and over 2.3 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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