COVID cases continue

Monroe County recorded 75 COVID-19 cases over the past week, bringing the overall total to 291 cases and 13 deaths. 

Eleven new cases were added Tuesday. One new case was reported Monday. There were nine new cases Sunday and seven new cases on Saturday. On Friday, 10 new cases were reported. On Thursday, nine new cases were reported.

“While Monroe County has seen a slight increase in cases per day in the past few weeks, our hospital numbers have declined,” Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said. “People need to continue to take precautions while in groups and wear mask in situations that put you in close proximity to others. The increase in cases have not been linked to any one behavior or business.”

Wagner said a small portion of cases in the last few days are from nursing homes, and the rest are among members of the community.

“A few of them are tired to the nursing homes. A few of them are out in the community,” he said, noting hospitalizations still remain steady.

There are 56 active cases and one resident is hospitalized with the virus, according to Wagner, while 210 people have recovered. Over 3,712 people have tested negative for the virus.

On Tuesday, Wagner reported the county has seen 129 cases in the Columbia zip code, one in the Hecker zip code, two in the New Athens zip code, 16 in the Red Bud zip code, two in the Renault zip code, 13 in the Valmeyer zip code and 128 in the Waterloo zip code.

Of the county’s cases, 22 have been among people under 18, 69 have been among people ages 19-29, 37 have been among people ages 30-39,37 have been among people ages 40-49, 50 have been among people ages 50-59, 28 have been among people ages 60-69, 10 have been among people ages 70-73, 23 have been among people ages 80-89 and 15 have been among people ages 90 and above as of Tuesday.

“The health department expected and expects an increase in cases as people continue to return to work and other activities,” Wagner said. “The health department is doing all it can to contain the spread by contact tracing positives and quarantining individuals that are close contacts and asking the public to continue to continue to cooperate with the health department employees that are doing contact tracing. By the public continuing to provide contact tracers accurate information on contacts, we can have an increase in case numbers but still be able to keep outbreaks under control and return to life as normal as possible for the time being.”

Wagner also clarified that the recent drop in active cases was due to Illinois changing its quarantine procedure. Previously, the state required people quarantined to remain so until they were symptom-free. Now, they must remain isolated for 10 days and have two days without a fever.

Among the recent cases, Wagner said the majority among people in their 20s who contract the virus at social gatherings.

Wagner predicted last week that cases would drop to around four to six new ones a day, so he said he feels “a little better”  about how the county is faring this week. 

“It looks like we’re sustaining that every day, which is still not completely unexpected,” Wagner explained. “The main thing is we’re not seeing an increase in hospitalizations. That makes me feel good. Four to six a day or even six to eight a day, it looks like we may hang at that number here for a while. I don’t think we’re going to have any of those low days where we only have one or two (new cases). That’s not as good as we were in the past, but still not alarming or anything like that.”

Last week, Monroe County added six new cases Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, three on Saturday, four on Sunday and Monday and five on Tuesday. 

“They are coming in quicker than they are getting off of quarantine,” Wagner said last Friday. “(Soon), the number of active cases should drop some due to the spike in cases we had a week ago.”

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Waterloo zip code has had 128 confirmed cases (2,281 tests), the Columbia zip code has had 125 cases (1,072 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 14 cases (138 tests).

The IDPH also recently began reporting coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities. 

According to data last updated Friday, Integrity Healthcare of Columbia, located at 253 Bradington Drive, now has 15 cases among staff and residents. 

State data does not distinguish between coronavirus cases among employees or residents, but Wagner said the latest information he received was that only employees had the virus at Integrity.

Integrity declined comment when reached Tuesday by the Republic-Times

According to the IDPH, Oak Hill Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo has had eight cases (no residents), Cedarhurst Senior Living in Waterloo has had six (at least one resident) and Garden Place in Columbia has had 39 (both residents and staff), including 11 deaths.

Also on the business front, Hilltop Kid’s Learning Center, located at 1 Christchurch Way in Columbia, closed last week due to a confirmed COVID-19 case involving an office worker that did not have direct contact with children.

On Saturday, Arby’s fast food restaurant at 721 N. Market Street in Waterloo was closed “for deep cleaning and restaurant maintenance,” per a sign posted on its door.

On Thursday evening, the spouse of an employee of Waterloo Walmart told the Republic-Times that a worker in the grocery department of the store had tested positive. Multiple calls to Walmart in an attempt to confirm were not returned.

On Wednesday, Tiny’s Pub & Grill, 602 N. Main Street in Columbia, said it had a positive COVID case among its staff and will be closed temporarily.

“We will be doing extensive cleaning again before reopening next week,” Tiny’s posted on Facebook. “Your health and safety are our top priorities.”

Acorns Golf Links in Wartburg had a sign posted on its clubhouse door this week that an employee has recently tested positive, resulting in the temporary closure of its kitchen.

Similarly, Top Shooters bar at 531 Old State Route 3 in Columbia announced last week it will be closed at least until Aug. 1 after two members of its staff tested positive for COVID-19.

An IDPH county-specific tool designed to help individuals determine what activities they choose to do measures the risk metrics of new cases per 100,000, number of deaths, test positivity percentage, number of tests 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 shows Monroe County is doing fairly well.

For the week beginning July 19, Monroe County’s case rate was 93 per 100,000 people (the goal is 50). The county meets the other criteria.

The county’s neighbors are in a similar place with the virus. 

In St. Clair County, there are 4,074 total positive tests as of Tuesday and 155 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 38,659 have been tested there.

A spokesperson from the St. Clair County Health Department also clarified a misunderstanding that has led to some on social media to claim that a person who tests positive for the virus can count as a case each time they test positive, which Wagner has previously debunked. 

“Every time a person tests, they’re counted as a test. If they’re positive multiple times, it would be counted positive multiple times,” the spokesperson said, noting the same applies to negative tests. 

That same procedure does not apply to confirmed cases. St. Clair County only reports positive tests. Basically, a positive is just that: each time a person takes a test they are counted against those numbers. A case, on the other hand, is only counted when somebody tests positive the first time.

“The cases are once you’re positive, you’re positive,” the spokesperson emphasized. “The positives are positives. Period.”

To the south, Randolph County has 433 total confirmed cases, 39 of which are active. Seven people have died from the virus. A total of 5,711 people have been tested.

On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 11 counties are considered to be at a warning level for novel coronavirus disease. Two of those counties are Monroe County neighbors St. Clair and Randolph.

The 11 counties being warned saw outbreaks associated with business operations and activities posing higher risk for disease spread, including school graduation ceremonies, a rise in cases among late teens and 20s, parties and social gatherings, people going to bars, long-term care outbreaks, clusters of cases associated with restaurants and churches, and big sports events including soccer, golf and softball tournaments, per the IDPH.

“Residents of many communities are not wearing face coverings that have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the IDPH said. “Public health officials are finding that most contacts to cases are testing positive as well.”

Indicators of concern to the IDPH for both St. Clair and Randolph counties deal with new cases per 100,000 (target is less than 50) and test positive rate (target is at or below 8 percent). St. Clair is averaging 165 new cases per 100,000 with an 8.3 percent positivity rate. Randolph, which was also on the IDPH warning list last week, is averaging 125 new cases per 100,000 with a 10.9 percent positivity rate.

A map and information of each county’s status can be found by clicking here.

Across the metro east region, which also includes Madison, Bond, Clinton and Washington counties, the spread of the virus threatens to cause Illinois to impose more restrictions. 

The seven-day rolling average of the region’s test positivity rate has increased in the last six days for which data is available, climbing to 7.3 percent on July 31. It was at 7.1 percent July 23.

The region has seen a single-day increase increase in its seven-day rolling average for hospital admissions. It also has 32 percent hospital availability and 51 percent ICU bed availability.

If a region’s positivity rate is at or above 8 percent for three days, however, the state will implement mitigation actions to help curb the virus’s spread. 

Statewide, there are 184,712 cases of coronavirus and 7,545 deaths, according to the IDPH. 

In Missouri, there are 54,080 confirmed cases and 1,266 deaths as of Tuesday. That includes 13,193 cases in St. Louis County and 4,620 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

St. Louis County imposed more restrictions last Friday to help curb the spread of the virus. Those initiatives include limiting gatherings to 50 people, imposing a 25 percent occupancy limit on businesses and closing all bars by 10 p.m. every night.   

Nationally, more than 4.7 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 156,594 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 18.3 million cases of coronavirus and at least 695,874 COVID-19-related deaths.

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