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Warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in La Salle County have been flagged by state health officials Friday.
The seven-day COVID-19 test positivity rate has risen above 8% within the county, making it one of 51 counties placed on a statewide warning list.
As of Friday, there have been 550 cases confirmed among county residents in October — which is up from 504 the whole month of September — and makes up 23.77% of all county cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
There are 573 active COVID-19 cases among county residents as of Friday.
"Until La Salle County can get a handle on the number of new cases being identified each week and slow the community spread that is occurring, the county will continue to be at risk," said county health officials in a press release Friday.
The department’s contact tracing efforts continue to show small clusters of cases among families and household contacts.
Social and family gatherings, household sharing, workplace exposures, long-term care outbreaks and community spread have all contributed to the increase in cases, said local health officials.
"Getting together in groups, both small and large, without taking appropriate precautions, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings is leading to increased transmission and will continue to lead us in the wrong direction," said local health officials. "All residents are encouraged to wear a face covering, maintain 6 feet of social distance, wash hands frequently, avoid gatherings with people not in your household, and stay home when ill."
The La Salle County Health Department also recommends anyone who has attended a large event or a social gathering where social distancing was not being practiced to monitor themselves for symptoms. Official advise anyone who has had exposure to these types of situations to consider being tested for COVID-19, five to seven days after the event or immediately if they begin to develop symptoms.
The county-level metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness for each county’s progress during Phase 4 and will help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions and promote healthy behaviors.
The risk factors include several indicators monitored by the Illinois Department of Public Heath in order to measure the health burden of COVID-19 in each county and aid in determining the county’s ability to respond to the virus.
The measures are updated on a weekly basis and are based on the timeframe of Sunday to Saturday of the week prior. The metrics are compared to a target value or expected trend. Each county is assessed to determine whether it is meeting or exceeding each indicator target. Using a color-coded system, counties will be able to determine whether they are meeting or not meeting set targets. Blue indicates that the county is experiencing overall stable COVID-19 metrics, while orange indicates there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county.
The eight metrics used to measure COVID-19 rates at a county level are:
New cases per 100,000 people. If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
Number of deaths. This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
Weekly test positivity. This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
ICU availability. If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
Weekly emergency department visits. A warning is triggered when the weekly visits to Emergency Departments for COVID-19-like-illness increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
Weekly hospital admissions. A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
Tests performed. This metric is used for context and increased awareness of testing resources, but is not a metric that is used to trigger a county warning. Test positivity at or under 8% indicates there is sufficient testing. If the test positivity exceeds 8%, then the number of tests is considered insufficient.
Clusters. This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand a large increase in cases. It is also an indicator of successful investigation of cases to a known source. This is not a metric that is used to trigger a county warning.