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Number of new COVID cases still high; vaccinations nearing end of Phase 1a

Herald Tribune staff report
updated: 1/8/2021 2:22 PM

Randolph County persists in having high rates of new COVID-19 cases and the number of available intensive care hospital beds fell last week to below the recommended 20%, according to the most recent Illinois Department of Public Health statistics.

Meanwhile, Health Department Administrator Angela Oathout said Tuesday via email the county is nearing completion of Phase 1a of vaccinations, and are currently picking up health care workers who decided later in the process to get the vaccine after all.

"(We) don't want anybody to get left behind," she said. The county will move into Phase 1b when the IDPH gives them the go-ahead, she added.

IDPH stats show that during the final full week of 2020, Dec. 20-28, Randolph County's ICU bed availability was at 19%, and there were 614 new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people tested, when the state's target rate is 50.

Moreover, the county's positivity rate -- the ratio of positive tests among all tests -- was 13.5%, when the target rate is 8% or less.

Even so, those numbers have improved since late in 2020, when Randolph County hit high points on all those statistical categories. The county had 14.2% positivity rates on both Nov. 14 and Dec. 5; and on Dec. 12 had a new case rate of 925 per 100,000 tests.

On Monday, the most recent news release from the Randolph County Health Department said there were currently 148 cases, including 11 new cases on Sunday and 18 new cases on Monday.

Of those, three patients were hospitalized and 145 were recovering at home.

Through Monday, Randolph has had 3,396 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. Fifty-three people have died.

Next door, Perry County reported 2,439 cases as of Tuesday, with 52 deaths.

In vaccinating health care workers first, Randolph County is following the procedures laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an independent panel of medical and public health experts. They called for health care personnel and long-term care facility staff and residents to be the first vaccinated.

Phase 1b will include front-line essential workers such as firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the educational sector (teachers, support staff, and day care workers).

Oathout said the recommendations were made in mind of three goals: Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible; preserve the functioning of society and reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.

People aged 65-74 years fall into Phase 1c, because they are at a higher risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19. Also in 1c are people ages 16-64 who have underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

Phase 1c also includes other essential workers, such as those in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health.

As vaccine availability increases, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more groups. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large quantities of vaccine are available.