New deaths reported as COVID cases keep falling


The death toll from the novel coronavirus is now at 93 in Monroe County after two more deaths were reported Sunday.

The details of those deaths were not immediately available.

“We’re thinking they’re related, probably, to Integrity (Healthcare of Columbia),” Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said, noting that facility sent its residents who contracted COVID-19 to facilities with dedicated wings in Alton and Carbondale. “We don’t know of anybody who has died recently.”

Prior to Sunday, the death of a woman in her 70s who was not a resident of a long-term care facility was announced Wednesday and two deaths from October were announced Thursday.

Wagner reported that two women in their 80s from long-term care facilities who died four months ago were added to the county’s death count.

He said both women were residents of Integrity Healthcare of Columbia but were not living in that facility at the time of their death. They may have both died in Missouri hospitals, which may be why the reporting was so delayed.

That came after Monroe County recorded no deaths from the novel coronavirus in the last week and even fewer cases than in the prior seven-day period. 

This marked the first time since mid-September that Monroe County did not report new deaths from the virus in some fashion. 

Wagner credited the vaccination of nursing home residents and senior citizens for keeping the deaths stable. 

“Getting them vaccinated and keeping it out of them is going to be critical to keeping our death toll down. We’ve got most of our 80 and above done,” he said, adding that deaths may decrease by as much as 75 percent once most older residents are vaccinated. 

The county also had just 39 new cases of COVID-19 between Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, the fewest in a week since late September. 

Wagner said he was not sure why cases have dropped, though he guessed it might be because more people, particularly young residents, have had the virus than numbers show and still have immunity. 

“I think we’re getting some breaks in the chain of spreading by people having already had it,” Wagner hypothesized. 

The county now has had 4,089 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Four cases were reported Sunday, seven cases were reported Saturday, two cases were reported Friday, 15 cases were reported Thursday and nine cases were reported Wednesday. There were zero new cases Monday.

Roughly 205 of the county’s cases are active, and 19 residents remain hospitalized with the virus.

Among those cases, Wagner said he is unaware of any that have been caused by variants of the virus. 

Illinois has had 68 cases from the variants, with 67 of those being from the United Kingdom strain called B.1.1.7. 

There has been one case in the state caused by the South Africa mutation, called B.1.351 and zero caused by the Brazil variant, also known as P.1. 

Those latter variants spread more easily and quickly, while the UK mutation is both more infectious and possibly more lethal.

The COVID-19 vaccine appears to be able to combat all three variants to varying degrees.

Wagner said he is unaware of any Monroe County residents having one of those mutated strains, but he noted only select places are testing for that. 

“Right now, I’m not too concerned about the variants because it looks like the vaccine is pretty effective against most of them,” Wagner said. “With the spread being lower right now, it’s going to take a long time for that to really take hold and become the predominant strain.”

Wagner further pointed out that lower spread gives the virus fewer opportunities to mutate and stressed that vaccination also decreases the chances of more infectious, vaccine-resistant or lethal strains emerging. 

Wagner said residents should continue to be concerned about small quantities of vaccine being shipped to Monroe County.

The county received 200 doses this week and Wagner said he expects to receive about 300 doses next week and “maybe a little more than that” the week after. 

“Anytime the number goes up it’s better, but it’s still absolutely ridiculous,” Wagner said. 

Also on the vaccine front, Monroe County hosted a vaccine clinic Monday to administer the second shot for those who got their first dose Jan. 18. Wagner said that went smoothly.  

There is another clinic for second doses set for Thursday for those who got their first shots Jan. 27-28. 

Monroe County residents may be able to get the vaccine in other places since the county is getting such limited quantities. 

The state added two vaccination sites in Monroe County recently, as Walgreens locations in Waterloo and Columbia now offer the vaccine. An appointment is required to get the shot. Sign up by clicking here

Individuals can also get vaccinated at the mass vaccination site at the fairgrounds in St. Clair County, the state confirmed last week. 

Sign up by visiting the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Facebook page or by calling 618-825-4447. 

Per the Illinois Department of Public Health, Monroe County has administered 7,337 doses of COVID vaccine. There are 1,688 people fully vaccinated here, meaning 4.92 percent of the county has received both shots.

Illinois overall has administered 2,756,831 doses of the vaccine and received over 3.1 million doses. A total of 835,597 residents have gotten both shots, which means 6.56 percent of Illinois is fully vaccinated.

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 2,087 cases (23,506 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,559 cases (10,039 tests) and Valmeyer zip code has had 159 cases (889 tests), according to the IDPH.

Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average test positivity rate was 3.8 percent on Feb. 26.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east was 3.8 percent on Feb. 26. The region has 27 percent of its ICU staffed beds available.

In St. Clair County, there have been 27,990 total positive tests and 445 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 285,778 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 3,976 confirmed cases, 12 of which are active. Eighty-two people have died from the virus there.

Illinois overall is up to 1,187,839 cases of coronavirus and 20,536 deaths.

There are 1,288 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 308 people in ICU beds and 148 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 478,416 confirmed cases and 7,919 deaths. That includes 74,207 cases in St. Louis County and 19,211 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 28.6 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 512,979 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 114.1 million cases of coronavirus and over 2.5 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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