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Dozens of McLean County Schools Face COVID Exposure

A sign at the entrance of Bloomington High School instructs visitors to wear a mask.

School-aged children make up the largest share of new coronavirus cases in McLean County.

The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) on Wednesday announced 84 daily coronavirus cases and 435 cases for the week. About 29% of the weekly cases (127) involve kids age 17 and under. Those under age 12, who are not eligible for the COVID vaccine, make up 19% of new cases (83).

MCHD public affairs coordinator Marianne Manko said it’s not clear how many infections are linked to classrooms, or spread outside of school.

“We want to be really careful and make sure we are working closely with our schools and are going through their proper mitigation to make sure that if people do come to school sick that there is not a massive spread,” Manko said during a virtual briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “We need to make sure we keep kids in the classroom and that we keep them there safely.

Manko added the proportion of positive cases for school-aged children to the rest of the population is similar to what it was in early August.

Data from the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) show 28 schools in McLean County have had COVID exposures in the last month. That list includes five schools that had between 5-10 exposures determined through contact tracing: Colene Hoose Elementary in Normal, Fox Creek Elementary in Bloomington, Normal Community West High School, Parkside Junior High in Normal; and Ridgeview Elementary School in Colfax.

Manko said the health department has not had any discussions about any McLean County schools that are considering a move to virtual learning as some schools in the state have done after reported exposures.

MCHD said 501 McLean County residents are isolating at home, 71 people were released from quarantine overnight and 20,573 McLean County residents are considered recovered from COVID-19.

The number of McLean County residents hospitalized with COVID-19 held steady at 25. Carle BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center have 33 COVID patients receiving care; 93% of their beds are full, including 88% of intensive care beds. Carle Health and OSF HealthCare both indicated 82% of their COVID-19 patients and 90% of their intensive care COVID patients are not vaccinated.

The 84 daily positive cases came from a batch of about 3,300 tests returned overnight. The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate remained 3.2%. The cumulative positivity rate held at 4.6% based on more than 463,900 tests conducted since the start of the pandemic.

McLean County has reported 251 COVID-related deaths since March 2020.

Manko said the county is bringing back COVID vaccination clinics to Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington to meet what the department said is increased demand for vaccines, though data show the higher vaccination rates in August already have waned.

“It’s our job to make sure we are well prepared to make sure we have enough vaccine on hand and that we are able to get as many people as quickly as possible whenever they want it,” Manko said.

COVID vaccinations increased in August, partially due to concerns about the spread of the highly-contagious Delta variant.

According to IDPH data and compiled by WGLT, vaccinations have stalled in McLean County in September. The 1,542 doses put in arms from Sept. 7-13 is the lowest weekly total in the county since July 6.

Vaccination clinics are scheduled for the arena from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sept. 16, 23 and 30.

MCHD said appointments are strongly encouraged to ensure there are adequate supplies of each vaccine. The clinics are open for those getting first or second doses and for immunocompromised people who are eligible for an additional dose.

Manko said MCHD will evaluate whether the county should continue the clinics beyond September. She said the county may need to find additional sites since the downtown arena could have scheduling conflicts.

“We are talking with other stakeholders that can help us in the vaccine clinics and other places we might be able to expand to if we need it,” Manko said. “Right now, we don’t have plans.”

Data from IDPH show 53.2% of McLean County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. MCHD indicated the vaccination rate for 12-to-17 year-olds is 54.7%; for 18-to-64 year-olds the rate is 57.2%; people 65 and older have the highest vaccination rate at 89.5%.

Manko added she doesn’t expect the Biden administration’s COVID vaccine requirement for large employers will have a big impact.

“We anticipate that it will raise the rates and we are seeing a slight increase in those rates, but I’m not sure if it will raise it significantly,” Manko said. “We’ll have to see where that plays out.”

Copyright 2021 WGLT. To see more, visit WGLT.
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