Monroe County to stop reporting COVID deaths

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Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner reported two more deaths from the novel coronavirus Thursday, but said it would be the last time he did so.

The deceased were a woman in her 90s who lived in a long-term care facility and a man in his 70s. The woman tested positive for the virus in October, while the man tested positive in September and got injured in December and was hospitalized with that injury until he died last month.

Those deaths being counted appeared to be the last straw for Wagner, who has long been critical of how the state counts deaths from the virus because it appears it counts anyone who tested positive and later died as a COVID death.

“The accuracy of the state classifying individuals is not consistent with the level of truth that I as administrator am comfortable with,” Wagner said.

For the latest on deaths, Wagner said individuals can still use Illinois Department of Public Health data. The IDPH now has the death toll in Monroe County at 105. 

Wagner on Wednesday announced the death of a man in his 90s who was a long-term care resident. That individual tested positive for the virus in October and only died recently.

This death comes after Wagner reported the death woman in her 60s who was not affiliated with a long-term care facility on Saturday and the death of a 62-year-old man who lived in such a facility when he tested positive for the virus in August and later died on March 18. 

“(This is) another case of ‘are these numbers of people who had COVID in the past and have now passed away or is COVID the cause of death,’” Wagner said of that death, which he reported last Thursday. 

As the death toll slowly ticks upward, Monroe County hosted two more vaccination clinics in the last week – the most recent of which took place Monday afternoon. 

“It went good,” Wagner said. “We had second doses and we gave some first doses.” 

There were only 200 first doses available at the clinic, but any county resident age 18 or older was eligible for the shot for the first time. 

Wagner said he was not sure how many newly eligible people were partially inoculated against COVID-19 at the clinic, and he was skeptical the youngest segments of the population would get the vaccine in large numbers. 

“We only had 200 first doses available, so probably not too many got in,” he explained. “Those that are just right out of high school I think are going to take it. I think it’s going to taper off a little more as you get into the college-age students that aren’t going to take the vaccine. But the 20-30 year olds, hopefully more of them will take it, but we’ll have to wait and see.” 

The shots on Monday were by appointment only, with people registering using EMTrack. 

Wagner said that caused some problems with internet access for some county residents, internet capabilities at the Monroe County Fairgrounds and people not registering properly. 

Essentially, residents would complete the process and assume they were done, but would not see that no tickets were available and therefore not get one. Then, they would show up to the fairgrounds and not be on the list. 

“The problem is people think they’ve registered, but they haven’t completely registered,” Wagner said. “We’re still going to try to work EMTrack into it, but if it keeps having issues or slows us down too much, we won’t use it. We’re hoping the issues get worked out.” 

The original link to sign up for appointments also did not work when first shared Saturday afternoon due to a problem with the service, though that was resolved within about an hour. 

By Saturday night, all the slots were filled. 

Demand for the shots was a little less rapid at last Wednesday’s clinic, as the county still had a few dozen shots left as the event wound down at 7 p.m. Wagner said his department used all the shots. 

A vaccine clinic for individuals to get the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine took place Thursday at the fairgrounds. About 150 doses were opened up Thursday afternoon to county residents wanting a first dose.

Next week, Monroe County will receive its first shipment of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Wagner said the county should get about 300 doses of that shot. He is not yet sure how it will be distributed, though the leading option is to have a separate line for it at vaccination clinics. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored much longer and more easily than the two-dose ones, and Wagner said that may be necessary because he is not confident the demand will be as high for it. 

“There’s some people who really want J&J, but, after you go through those people, I’m not sure how many people there are who will take J&J,” he said. 

The IDPH reports Monroe County has administered 18,031 doses of COVID vaccine. There are 7,006 people fully vaccinated here – meaning 20.4 percent of the county has received both shots.

Illinois overall has administered 6,413,258 doses of the vaccine and received over 8 million doses. A total of 2,424,674 residents have gotten both shots, which means 19.03 percent of Illinois is fully vaccinated.

Monroe County has had a total of 4,262 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, about 61 of which are active. Three residents remain hospitalized with the virus. There have been 64 new cases since March 25. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 2,163 cases (25,553 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,633 cases (10,945 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 163 cases (983 tests), according to the IDPH.

Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average test positivity rate was 6 percent on April 3.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east was 3 percent on April 3. The region has 33 percent of its ICU staffed beds available.

In St. Clair County, there have been 29,527 total positive tests and 472 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 317,622 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 4,081 confirmed cases, 27 of which are active. Eighty-five people have died from the virus there. 

Illinois overall is up to 1,261,667 cases of coronavirus and 21,395 deaths. There are 1,648 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 357 people in ICU beds.

Missouri has recorded 491,442 confirmed cases and 8,508 deaths. That includes 77,228 cases in St. Louis County and 19,993 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 30.8 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 555,109 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 131.8 million cases of coronavirus and over 2.8 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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