COVID death toll at 80 in Monroe County

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The death toll from COVID-19 in Monroe County rose to 80 on Monday with the deaths of a man and woman, both in their 70s and not associated with long-term care facilities.

Monroe County reported the death of a man in his 60s not associated with a long-term care facility on Sunday and the death of a woman in her 90s who lived at Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo on Friday.

The death toll jumped by five on Jan. 25 after the Illinois Department of Public Health reclassified some deaths over the last several months, per Wagner. The five reclassified deaths were of three men in their 80s, a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 90s. All but one of the men were residents of a long-term care facility.

Prior to that, the most recent death was announced Jan. 22. The deceased was a man in his 70s not associated with long-term care. 

Monroe County hosted COVID vaccine clinics for members of the public Thursday and Monday at the 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,” Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said. “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 healthcare workers with direct patient contact on Thursday. However, registration for this round of vaccines was full almost immediately after the health department announced the clinic Wednesday afternoon.

“We hope to start receiving more doses more regularly from the state,” the Monroe County Health Department posted on its Facebook page. “Please be patient with us we are doing our best with what we have.”

To receive Code Red notifications of future vaccine clinics, click here.

The Monroe County Health Department hosted another COVID vaccine clinic Monday. Those ages 80 and above received the vaccine from 10 a.m. to shortly before noon, when it was announced there were no more doses to administer. Those ages 75 and above were to receive the vaccine from noon to 3 p.m., but were turned away due to there not being any vaccines available.

The county once again received about 400 doses for Monday’s clinic.

It seems Monroe County will receive a steady allotment of vaccines, but the low total of doses is disturbing for Wagner. He said Monroe County receiving 400 doses a week is “ridiculous” because it has the capacity to give thousands in a day. 

“That is where we’re supposed to be staying for quite a while,” he said. 

He criticized pharmacies like Walgreens getting doses – arguing they can only vaccine a few dozen people a day – while health departments have been receiving federal funding for almost 20 years to plan for and execute mass vaccination clinics. 

Wagner added that 95 percent of the pharmacies offering the COVID vaccine in Illinois are in the northern part of the state. The only Walgreens locations in the metro east currently offering the vaccine are in Fairview Heights and Edwardsville.

“I have sent a question to IDPH about this, but have not gotten a response,” Wagner said.

State Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) joined other Republicans on Thursday in issuing a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker asking for the administration to answer for failures with the ongoing vaccine rollout.

“Illinois currently ranks 47th in overall vaccine distribution, making our question simple. Why?” Bryant said. “It is unacceptable. The governor needs to stop the blame game and provide real answers as to why Illinoisans do not have access to a vaccine.”  

Pritzker responded to the lawmakers by noting his administration made $25 million in grants available to beef up staff, training and rental space at the state’s 97 local health departments through which it is coordinating the vaccination plan.

“In fact, as we have helped local health departments overcome their challenges, the state of Illinois is administering more doses a week than it is receiving from the federal government,” Pritzker wrote in his response.

While the Republican lawmakers criticized Pritzker for “blaming the previous President, the federal government and CVS/Walgreens,” Pritzker said “having a partner” in the Biden administration will ensure a quicker rollout.

He pointed to an announcement Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Illinois with an additional $43 million to “expand our mobile vaccination operations and offer more easy-access locations for our residents as the national vaccine supply increases.”

In total, the state has received slightly more than 1.8 million doses of the vaccines manufactured by either Pfizer or Moderna, with about 1.3 million distributed outside of the long-term care partnership program. Of those outside of the partnership program, 59 percent, or 756,444, have been reported administered. Vaccine administrators have three days from when the shot is given to report it. 

Only 219,367 Illinois residents have been fully vaccinated, which means just 1.72 percent of the population has gotten both shots. 

“I don’t know where they are,” Wagner said of the unused shots. “Wherever they are, they need to give them to me because I can get them in people’s arms.” 

For its part, Monroe County has administered 2,721 doses, fully vaccinating 485 people or 1.41 percent of the county’s population.

The state on Friday reported 58,357 doses of the vaccine were administered over the previous 24 hours, setting a one-day high mark for the third straight day. 

For more on the state’s vaccination plan, including what pharmacies offer the vaccine to eligible residents, click here

BJC HealthCare has said it will vaccinate Illinois residents at their facilities, one of which is Memorial Hospital in Belleville. They should not go to Missouri for vaccination. For more on that or to register, click here.

Region 4, which is all metro east counties including Monroe County, remains in Tier 2 resurgence mitigations while other portions of the state have improved to Phase 4.

In Tier 2, cultural institutions and gaming parlors are permitted to reopen with safety measures in place, and businesses like fitness centers can have indoor classes with limited group sizes. Sports classified as low-risk may also resume with safety precautions.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east was 6.5 percent on Jan. 30. The region has 20 percent of its ICU beds available.

To move to Tier 1, a region must have a seven-day rolling average positivity rate between 6.5 and 8 percent for three straight days, no sustained increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and ICU bed availability of 20 percent or higher for three consecutive days based on a seven-day rolling average.

The region does not meet that latter criteria, as ICU availability has declined in recent days.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced that nine of the state’s regions met the metrics needed to have limitations loosened after the state secured contracts to bring more health care workers to the state. 

Regions 1-3 and 5-6 are in Phase 4, while  Regions 7-11 are in Tier 1 mitigations.

Under the new rules, indoor dining is allowed at a limited 25 percent capacity, indoor tables cannot exceed four people, reservations are required and establishments must be closed between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. in Tier 1 mitigations.

Several regions moved rapidly through the tiers, but Wagner said he does not expect that to happen here. 

“Our hospitalizations are not dropping as fast as the cases are,” he explained. “That’s maybe partly due to elective surgeries. Hospitals are a business, and they make money by having their beds full.” 

Wagner also noted that hospitalizations, which typically lag behind cases when cases rise, may also take some time to fall now that cases throughout the state and region are decreasing. 

The county’s case total since the pandemic began is 3,850. There are 275 active cases in Monroe County, including 29 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The county has added 220 cases since Jan. 20. 

The county added 11 cases between Monday and Tuesday, 16 cases Sunday 19 cases Saturday, 35 cases Friday, 13 cases Thursday and 10 cases Wednesday. Wagner said there were six COVID cases reported at Cedarhurst Senior Living in Waterloo.

Wagner said it appears Monroe County will continue to see that lower level of cases. 

“It looks like we’re holding there,” he said. 

Free mobile COVID testing will take place Feb. 2, Feb. 6, Feb. 8 and Feb. 10 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Monroe County Annex, located at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo.

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 1,974 cases (20,379 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,468 cases (9,255 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 150 cases (805 tests), according to the IDPH.

Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average test positivity rate was 9.3 percent as of Jan. 30.

In St. Clair County, there have been 26,161 total positive tests and 416 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 256,268 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 3,888 confirmed cases, 57 of which are active. Seventy-six people have died from the virus there.

Illinois overall is up to 1,130,917 cases of coronavirus and 19,306 deaths. 

There are 2,447 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 533 people in ICU beds and 265 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 460,487 confirmed cases and 7,088 deaths. That includes 70,905 cases in St. Louis County and 18,414 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 26.4 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 444,962 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 103.6 million cases of coronavirus and over 2.2 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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