Two residents of Brother James Court – a care facility for men with disabilities – and one resident of Mill Creek Alzheimer’s Special Care Center died due to COVID-19 this week, bringing the total deaths related to the disease to 50 in Sangamon County.
Last week, 220 people tested positive for the disease, reaching a new peak of daily new cases at 55 on Friday.
Gail O’Neill, director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, attributed the uptick to outbreaks at the two facilities and continued cases among young people.
The county reports 16 employees and 61 residents at Brother James Court have been infected; three have died. The care facility’s website says it’s home to 98 men. At Mill Creek, 13 residents and one employee have tested positive. O’Neill said they’re working with the facilities to get the outbreaks under control.
O’Neill said there have also been positive cases among people associated with local schools.
“None of them have been caused or spread in the school. They’re extracurricular or community activities (where) people have been exposed to (the disease),” she said. “We’ve found no spread in the schools.”
The area’s largest school district – Springfield District 186 – is teaching almost entirely remotely, while parochial schools and some schools in surrounding communities have opted for in-person or a hybrid model.
“We’ve seen the 19, 20-year-old age group, the older teens and 20s as something we’re worried about,” O’Neill said. “(The spread) does still seem to be through social activities rather than workplaces.”
Among the positive tests last week were 20 from the University of Illinois Springfield. University officials attributed the spread to three social gatherings on campus, but said they were not university-sanctioned events. They said no cases were traced back to classrooms.
In an email to the campus Friday, Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney announced new mitigation measures, saying the university would limit meetings, events or other activities for the student groups involved in the social gatherings.
“An example might be where they got together on a weekly basis or that they would get together on a monthly basis, whatever it might be - they would need to pause for two weeks and increase testing during that time to make sure we don’t have any more spread,” said Bethany Bilyeu, executive director of student services.
Bilyeu declined to share which groups were involved, citing student privacy concerns. She said the university is also asking those students to get tested more frequently than once a week.
The university has issued 15 formal warnings for behavior that does not comply with rules to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a university spokesman.