COVID Cases Rise in Jacksonville Area; Pike, highest brown

Health officials say Illinois is beginning to see an expected spike in COVID-19 infections, with 17 counties — five of them in west-central Illinois — reporting spikes in levels over the past week.

Pike County has returned to high community transmission levels, a designation it shrugged off last month after weeks of being an outlier among declining Jacksonville-area counties. Although Pike County’s weekly rate per 100,000 cases fell 31.25% to 141.38, hospitalizations for coronavirus treatment rose 48.1% in seven days, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, the number of tests requested increased by 11.5% and the number of positive tests increased by 1.43%.

Brown County is also at the highest level, joining Pike and only 10 others statewide. Brown County saw a 7.69% increase in new COVID cases over the past week, a rate of 212.83 per 100,000 cases, according to the CDC.

If a county has the highest transmission rate, the CDC recommends that masks be worn indoors in public regardless of immunization status, and that those who may be more susceptible to severe symptoms because of age or a compromised immune system consider non-essential indoor spaces to avoid public activities. The CDC is also urging people to get vaccinated and keep up to date with any booster shots that are available.

With the exception of Cass and Sangamon counties, which are at intermediate risk, the rest of west-central Illinois has low levels of community transmission.

New cases in Cass County rose 42.86% last week from the previous week, although the rate per 100,000 remained relatively low at 82.32. Cases in Sangamon County rose 6.39% over the past year, for a rate of 171.06 per 100,000. It also saw a 12.78% increase in testing and a 6.1% increase in hospital admissions for coronavirus cases.

Morgan County, although at a low level, reported 55 new COVID-19 cases last week, up 189.47% from the previous week and giving the county an infection rate of 163.41 per 100,000. The number of new cases was still among the lowest since September, according to CDC data. The number of tests performed during the week fell by more than 74% and admissions of confirmed COVID-19 patients fell by 71.4% from the previous week.

Fifty-one counties statewide are at intermediate risk, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. At intermediate level, officials are recommending older people and those with health conditions to wear a mask in indoor public places and make sure they are vaccinated and have had a booster shot.

“As we move into December and the weather continues to get colder, Illinois is beginning to see an expected surge in COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses like the flu,” said Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Health.

The health agency said preventive measures remain important, including testing – particularly when visiting a person at risk of serious illness – improved ventilation, good hygiene, staying home if ill and being up to date on vaccinations and booster shots.

With social gatherings due to the holiday increasing, the state said there could be a spike in late fall or winter in some cases. It is making 1 million rapid COVID-19 antigen tests available free of charge to residents of ZIP codes ranked high on a Social Vulnerability Index. A pack of five tests will be sent to those who meet the qualifications they request through the Project ACT website. Jacksonville is one of the valid ZIP Codes.

Last week, 20,495 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 57 related deaths were reported across the country.

As of March 2020, Illinois has had 3,885,397 cases and 35,494 associated deaths.

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