Sangamon County At Warning Level As COVID-19 Cases Rise

Jul 31, 2020

Sangamon County is one of several counties that are now at a warning level due to the spread of COVID-19.

The county has had 70 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, surpassing the Illinois Department of Public Health’s target number of 50 cases. The number of emergency room visits of people with COVID-19 symptoms is also rising.

Gail O’Neill – the director of the Sangamon County health department – said she felt like the county has lost ground in fighting the virus.

“It's hard to deal with apathy," she said. "Some people just don't either get it, don't understand it or just won't participate with distancing and masking.”

Sangamon County joined Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, St. Clair, and White counties at the warning level, which is triggered when a county sees an increase in two or more indicators. Indicators include number of deaths, test positivity rate and ICU bed availability.

“These metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as what activities they choose to do,” a news release from IDPH reads.

Last week, Sangamon County issued two orders that allowed the county to fine bars and restaurants, or suspend or revoke their license for failing to limit the number of patrons, not requiring employees to wear masks, and not following other public health measures.

However, the county-level metrics do not determine if more restrictions, such as banning indoor seating at restaurants, should be imposed by the state. For that, IDPH tracks positivity rate, hospital admission rate and ICU bed availability within 11 regions, according to a plan released by the governor’s office.

In Sagnamon County, 969 people had tested positive as of Friday. Of those, 535 have recovered and 34 have died. Eight people are hospitalized with COVID-19. 

O’Neill said to slow the spread, residents need to wear a mask out in public and avoid crowds.

O’Neill said the majority of new cases have been people younger than 40. Three children under a year old have also tested positive. O’Neill said she did not have more information about their status, other than they were in households with others who had tested positive.

Most people are contracting the disease from going out to bars and restaurants, or being a household with someone who has tested positive, O'Neill said. 

Earlier this week, the county saw its highest one-day increase in cases of 49. The previous peak was 41 during an outbreak at an assisted living center in Sherman – The Villas East.

A county spokesman said there are currently three outbreaks at assisted living centers. Five people – three staff and two residents – at Lewis Memorial Christian Village have tested positive in the last few days.

Senior living community Cedarhurst of Springfield has two active cases and a total of nine people associated with their facility test positive – seven residents and two employees. The two active cases are one resident and one employee who tested positive on July 20.

Concordia Village also had five cases of COVID-19, with two currently active.

Wilhite said all staff and residents at the facilities were tested when the outbreaks began, and have been tested weekly.

There have also been COVID-19 cases of employees at the Sangamon County Jail, the Illinois Department of Revenue offices in Springfield, and City Water, Light and Power, county spokesman Jeff Wilhite confirmed.

At the jail, three employees tested positive in the last few days. However, O’Neill said through contact tracing, the county health department is not calling it an outbreak. She said one employee had not been in the jail in more than two weeks, and the two others had not been in close contact with inmates.

As of now, she said no inmates have shown symptoms and there is not widespread testing planned. O’Neill said the health department is meeting with jail officials to determine a plan.