More local deaths as COVID crisis continues

Pictured is the latest graph from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force showing COVID hospital admissions in the St. Louis area. While the number has decreased in recent days, Dr. Alex Garza of the task force said that decrease is not enough and is not confident that trend will continue. Worldwide, there are over 63.5 million cases of coronavirus and over 1.4 million COVID-19-related deaths.

Six more Monroe County residents died from COVID-19-related causes in the past week as the county passed 2,000 total cases. 

The two newest deaths were a 73-year-old man and a 81-year-old man, neither of whom was associated with a long-term care facility.

“The ones that are not associated with long term care are just ones where conditions worsened at home, they went to the hospital and continued downhill from there,” Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said.

Wagner announced three new deaths from the virus on Thursday, all associated with senior care facilities.

Monroe County now has had 2,397 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. 

The county recorded 18 new cases Tuesday, 16 cases Monday, 41 cases Sunday, 61 cases Saturday, 53 cases Friday, 30 cases Thursday and 42 cases Wednesday. There are currently 312 cases active, including 25 residents hospitalized.

Another free mobile COVID-19 testing site will be set up outside of the Monroe County Annex, 901 Illinois Avenue, Waterloo, this coming Thursday, Dec. 10, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To register for that, visit

The Monroe County Health Department issued a reminder that those who have been listed as direct contacts with a COVID positive person should follow a 14-day self-isolation period.

“The CDC is still investigating shortening the self-isolation period and has advised that you follow the guidance of your local health department,” the Monroe County Health Department said.

Also on Friday, it was learned that, per recommendation of the ACIP, CDC, IDPH and other public health professionals, the first vaccines in Illinois will be dedicated to hospital and healthcare workers in the 50 counties with the highest death rates per capita. Monroe County is on that list.

The vaccines will be shipped to 10 regional hospital coordinating centers, who will then coordinate distribution to the 50 counties.

Integrity Healthcare in Columbia, Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center and Cedarhurst in Waterloo each reported deaths in recent days. The Oak Hill death was originally not classified as being due to coronavirus, but now it is. The Cedarhurst resident died after being transferred to Oak Hill, but the death is still attributed to the former facility.

Wagner also finally got word from the state about the mysterious death it had been counting for over a week that he was unaware of. The deceased was a resident of Integrity Healthcare.

Before Thursday’s announcement, two of the most recent deaths, both women in their 80s, were not associated with a long-term care facility. That means eight members of the general public here have died from the novel coronavirus.

Those deaths were reported on Thanksgiving and Monday.   

The other death, a 93-year-old man, was a resident of Reflections at Garden Place in Columbia.

That memory care facility, located at 710 S. Main Street, is affiliated with Garden Place Senior living but is a separate site from that  location, which had 38 cases and 11 deaths earlier in the pandemic. 

On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the death of a Monroe County woman in her 80s.

The COVID-related death toll in Monroe County currently stands at 51.

Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force – which is made up of physicians and health care professionals from the largest health care systems in the area – said hospitalizations across the region remain high.

“We continue to see too many people getting sick and coming to our hospitals, and if the numbers do not go down very soon we may not be able to keep up,” Garza said at the task force’s regular briefing on Monday. “We’ll continue to have to look for places to treat patients outside of our region. We’ll continue to have to make decisions about who gets care and who can’t get care because there’s not enough space or staff.”

“I’m asking everyone in our area to recognize the hospitals they know and depend on might not be able to help them in a couple of weeks,” Garza implored. 

Even with a slight drop in hospitalizations seen earlier this week, Garza said the region’s hospitals will run out of room approximately Dec. 8 if they do not halt elective health care services. If they do that, they will still reach maximum coronavirus inpatient capacity around Christmas, per Garza. 

Also in December, Wagner said Monroe County should get its first batch of the coronavirus vaccine – assuming it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the coming days, around Dec. 11 or Dec. 15. Those doses will only be for first responders and health care workers. 

“It’s going to start as a trickle, and then it’s going to ramp up from there,” Wagner said. 

He also said Illinois residents may not start getting the vaccine until a few days after Missouri citizens because that state decided to “strategically place” doses of the vaccine before it got FDA approval. 

Wagner said he learned Tuesday that Illinois declined to do that, and he was not sure why. 

Garza stressed that a vaccine is good news, but it will takes months into 2021 to vaccinate enough of the population to achieve herd immunity. 

“It’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a very long tunnel,” Garza said. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 1,207 cases (12,623 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 956 cases (5,478 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 85 cases (543 tests), according to the IDPH.

The IDPH listed Monroe County, along with every county in the state except Champaign County, as being at the warning level for COVID-19.

For the week of Nov. 22, the county had 810 cases per 100,000 residents (the goal is less than 50), a test positivity rate of 17.6 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent), performed 1,703 tests (the goal is to do enough to meet the positivity rate) and 18.4 percent of ICU beds available (the goal is at least 20 percent).

This is the first time Monroe County has not met the ICU availability metric. It met every other one.

In St. Clair County, there have been 16,905 total positive tests and 278 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 171,302 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 2,586 confirmed cases, 260 of which are active. Thirty-one people have died from the virus in that county. A total of 23,539 tests have been performed there.

The metro east, including these counties and Monroe County, has seen its test positivity rate remain well over the level at which mitigations are imposed, though it has been dropping over the last few weeks.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate was 15.1 percent on Dec. 5. It has been over the threshold for new mitigations of 8 percent for more than a month.

The region has only 17 percent of its medical or surgical beds available and just 19 percent of its ICU beds.

Illinois overall is up to 804,174 cases of coronavirus and 13,487 deaths.

There are 5,190 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, including 1,071 people in ICU beds and 626 on ventilators.

Neighboring Missouri has recorded 328,206 confirmed cases and 4,355 deaths. That includes 50,971 cases in St. Louis County and 13,446 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 15.1 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 285,070 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 67.9 million cases of coronavirus and over 1.5 million COVID-19-related deaths. 

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