Restrictions lessened in metro east; COVID deaths up to 76

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The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Friday that Region 4, which is all metro east counties including Monroe County, moved to Tier 2 resurgence mitigations.

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. Indoor sports may also resume with safety precautions. High school sports that are considered low-risk can also begin activities.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the metro east was 7.7 percent on Jan. 23. The region has 19 percent of its ICU beds available.

With its low hospital capacity, the metro east was one of only two regions in the state that remain at the strictest tier of mitigations. 

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 3 and 5 are back in Phase 4 with no mitigations. Regions 1, 2 and 6 have Tier 1 mitigations. Regions 8-11 are in Tier 2 mitigations and Regions 4 and 7 have Tier 3 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. 

To move to Tier 2 mitigations, test positivity rates must remain below 12 percent for three consecutive days, staffed hospital and ICU beds must reach 20 percent or higher for three consecutive days and there must be a sustained decline in COVID-19 patients in the hospital for seven out of 10 days for a region to move to a less restrictive phase. 

This move comes after the death toll in Monroe County rose to 76 on Monday after the IDPH reclassified some deaths over the last several months, per Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner.

“I have serious concerns about death reporting for COVID,” Wagner said. “For example, one of the deaths was an elderly woman in a nursing home that had recovered from COVID three months prior to death and got tangled in her bed sheets as she stood up and fell. The initial cause of death was brain bleed from a fall and (it was) reclassified as a COVID death. I am not sure if we are reporting deaths caused by COVID or people who had or have had COVID at the time of death. Another case was a death that I do not know what it was classified as, but (it was) not COVID, and the body was to be used for science. At that time, the (St. Louis University) cadaver personnel at the school tested the body and found it to be positive for COVID. The death was then reclassified as a COVID death.”

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.

The most recent death, announced Friday, was of a man in his 70s not associated with a long-term care facility.  

Prior to that, the most recently deceased individuals ranged in age from their 70s to their 90s. They were also a mix of long-term care residents and members of the general public. 

Long-term care residents who died were a woman in her 90s from Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center in Waterloo, a man in his 70s at Garden Place in Waterloo and a woman in her 90s at Garden Place in Waterloo. 

Among the public, two men in their 80s and a man in his 70s died from the virus in recent days.

Many of the deceased would have already or soon qualified for the vaccine. Monroe County hosted its first public vaccination clinic Monday. For more on that, including how to sign up for the vaccine, click here

To receive Code Red notifications of future vaccination clinics in this county, click here.

To learn more about the vaccination plan in Illinois, including to check where you can get vaccinated if you are eligible, click here.

Wagner told the Monroe County Board last week that 94 percent of Oak Hill residents have been vaccinated.

Only 44 percent of Oak Hill staff, however, had received the shot, which Wagner described as “horrible” despite being above the state average in those facilities at 38 percent. 

Illinois residents who want to get a vaccine through local hospital systems are also able to go that route after St. Louis area hospitals announced a program. 

BJC HealthCare 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.

Aside from the deaths, most of the numbers in Monroe County and surrounding areas continued to  trend in the right direction over the last week. 

“Cases are dropping down a little bit,” Wagner said, adding if they stay at this level around a week more he will consider it the new normal. 

The county’s case total since the pandemic began is 3,746. There are 289 active cases in Monroe County, including 32 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Wagner announced 27 cases Tuesday, 15 cases Monday eight cases Sunday, 12 cases Saturday, 27 cases Friday, 29 cases Thursday and 19 cases Wednesday.

Hospitalizations have fallen to around 30 after being near 40 in the last couple weeks, which Wagner said was partly because of cases decreasing. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 1,913 cases (19,427 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 1,422 cases (8,960 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 144 cases (773 tests), according to the IDPH.

Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average test positivity rate was 8.3 percent as of Jan. 23.

The Monroe County Health Department said free mobile COVID testing will take place Feb. 2, Feb. 6, Feb. 8 and Feb. 10 at the Monroe County Annex, located at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo.

In St. Clair County, there have been 25,428 total positive tests and 393 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 247,098 tests have been performed there. 

Randolph County has had 3,824 confirmed cases, 72 of which are active. Seventy-three people have died from the virus. 

Illinois overall is up to 1,108,430 cases of coronavirus and 18,883 deaths. Cases are decreasing statewide. 

There are 2,962 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois, including 608 people in ICU beds and 320 on ventilators.

Missouri has recorded 451,493 confirmed cases and 6,686 deaths. That includes 69,602 cases in St. Louis County and 18,063 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 25.3 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 421,003 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 100 million cases of coronavirus and over 2.1 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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