More COVID deaths in Monroe County as vaccine rollout continues

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The Monroe County Health Department completed another round of vaccines as more COVID-related death and record hospitalizations were reported.

The latest vaccine shipment – again only for Monroe County healthcare workers involved with direct patient contact – were administered Monday at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Waterloo. 

The county may soon receive more vaccines, as Gov. JB Pritkzer, along with the governors of nearby Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, called Thursday for the federal government to distribute the reserve COVID-19 vaccines immediately.

“In each of our states, vaccine delivery has been much slower than we anticipated, so it is imperative that the federal government distribute the vaccines it is holding on reserve. These vaccines will save millions of Americans from the unnecessary danger and hardship of contracting COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “Up to now, this vaccine has only been offered to a very specific group of people at very specific location. Our states are ready to work alongside the federal government to expand vaccine distribution so that we can protect the wellbeing of all our residents, families, small businesses and our economy.”

The United States topped 4,000 COVID deaths in a single day for the first time on Thursday.

Roughly half of America’s supply of the vaccine has been held in reserve to ensure those who get their first shot get their second.

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, announced Friday that he plans to release all the vaccines currently held in reserve, greatly upping the number of people who could soon get their first shot while risking delays for the second shot.

Monroe County reported two more deaths from the virus on Tuesday. Both deceased individuals were females in their 90s from Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo. That puts the death toll at 64.

Monroe County reported its 62nd death associated with COVID on Saturday. The deceased was a male in his 90s who was from Oak Hill.

That comes after two deaths from the novel coronavirus in Monroe County were reported earlier in the week. 

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner announced the deaths of a man and a woman in their 60s who were not associated with a long-term care facility on Wednesday. The announcement came after Wagner said those deaths were pending on Tuesday.

“We’re just waiting on the exact age and confirmation, but we’re certain that they’re COVID deaths,” Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said Tuesday. 

On Jan. 2, Wagner confirmed the death of a man in his 90s who died from COVID-19 that the state reported earlier in the week. He also said the death of a man in his 60s from Hecker was from the virus and will be added to the count. 

Even as deaths in Monroe County, and around much of the nation, continue to rise, many of the other metrics continued to hold steady on a slight downward trend in the last week while the virus remains extremely prevalent in many parts of the country. 

Monroe County recorded 300 more cases of the virus within the last two weeks, putting the county total at 3,462. 

There were four new cases Tuesday, 12 new cases Monday, 17 news cases Sunday, 55 new cases were reported Saturday, 18 new cases Friday, 56 new cases Thursday and 29 new cases Wednesday.

There are 307 active cases in Monroe County, including 36 currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. 

The vaccine continued its rollout here this week as well, with the health department hosting another clinic at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on Monday to vaccinate health care workers. 

Confusion about the vaccination process led Wagner to address two specific issues Tuesday.

One error came after a local TV news station reported Monroe County was moving to the next group for vaccination because it had finished inoculating health care employees. 

“We are substantially through 1a to where we could go to 1b, but the state has to give us approval first,” Wagner clarified. 

Another source of confusion was an Illinois Department of Public Health graphic shared by the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, and later the Republic-Times, on Facebook. 

The graphic shows the IDPH recommendations for who will be in each vaccination group, though it notes in small print that there may still be updates to the prioritization. 

Many people assumed the groups were final.

“The 1b (group) has not been confirmed,” Wagner emphasized. “It is in draft form, but it hasn’t been finalized yet.” 

That proved true Wednesday, when Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the 1b group would include people 65 and older instead of 75 and older.

Per the draft graphic, the 1a group currently being vaccinated only includes health care personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff. 

The second group, called phase 1b, would include people age 75 and older and frontline essential workers like first responders, food and agriculture workers, grocery store workers and those working in education. 

Once an increased supply of vaccine is available, the next two groups could begin getting shots. 

Next would come group 1c, which is people ages 16-59 with co-morbid conditions, people age 65-75 and other essential workers like those in the food service industry, members of the media and information technology and communications professionals. 

The final group is called phase 2. The recommendation is still pending on that, but it may include everyone else age 16 and older. 

Although there has been some confusion, Wagner said there has not been the distribution problems in Monroe County that have been reported in many areas of America. 

“We’re getting it in and getting it in peoples’ arms rapidly,” he said. “If they send it to us, we’ll get it into peoples’ arms. I’m looking forward to when we can get larger supplies.” 

Wagner said vaccine allocation is currently based on population at the state level, but he hopes Illinois will soon get more doses and then allow counties to simply order what they need. 

At that point, Wagner said the plan is to run a 24-hour vaccination clinic to inoculate the county’s population as soon as possible. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 1,769 cases (17,286 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,331 cases (8,214 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 140 cases (721 tests), according to the IDPH.

The IDPH on Jan.8 listed Monroe County among the majority in the state as being at the warning level for COVID-19. For the week of Dec. 27, Monroe County had 620 cases per 100,000 residents (the goal is less than 50), a test positivity rate of 14.1 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent), performed 1,534 tests (the goal is to do enough to meet the positivity rate) and 19 percent of ICU beds available (the goal is at least 20 percent).

In St. Clair County, there have been 23,479 total positive tests and 363 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 225,926 tests have been performed there. There were five new deaths reported in St. Clair County on Saturday.

Randolph County has had 3,609 confirmed cases, 212 of which are active. Sixty-four people have died from the virus.

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.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate was 11.5 percent on Jan. 9. The region has 11 percent of its medical or surgical beds and just 18 percent of its ICU beds available.

Illinois overall is up to 1,040,168 cases of coronavirus and 17,743 deaths.

There are 3,553 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 757 people in ICU beds and 409 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 427,117 confirmed cases and 6,155 deaths. That includes 65,432 cases in St. Louis County and 17,024 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 22.7 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 379,020 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 91.3 million cases of coronavirus and over 1.9 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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