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18 New COVID-19 Cases in Sangamon County, Health Director Urges Mask Use

Signs outside a store in downtown Springfield encourage handwashing and the use of face masks.
Mary Hanse
NPR Illinois
Signs outside a store in downtown Springfield encourage handwashing and the use of face masks.

A month ago, Sangamon County confirmed a dozen COVID-19 cases in one week. So far this week, more than 50 people have tested positive.

County health director Gail O’Neill said one reason for the jump in cases could be more people are getting tested.

“The other thing that we of course have to look at is - is this an increase from people doing a little bit more as we moved into Phase 4, and kind of put caution to the wind a little bit?” O’Neill said. “We're not sure, but it is concerning.”

The state entered Phase 4 of Restore Illinois - the governor’s reopening plan - on June 26, which allows for limited indoor seating at bars and restaurants, gatherings of up to 50 people, and the limited operation of gyms and salons.

O’Neill said nurses at the health department are doing contact tracing to determine the reasons for the spike in cases.

As of Thursday, five residents are currently hospitalized with the disease, and another 94 are isolating. Thirty-four people have died.

Credit Sangamon County Department Of Public Health
Sangamon County Department of Public Health announced 18 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total to 501.

Sangamon County is in the central region, which is still meeting metrics including a low test positivity rate and high ICU bed availability to remain in Phase 4, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website.

O’Neill said she knows people are getting tired of social distancing, but it’s still one of the only tools available to slow the spread of the virus. She also encouraged mask use.

“Family members that get together who haven't for a long time and close friends, it's really hard not to hug each other or be close, shake hands all those things,” O’Neill said. “It’s still not a good idea right now. And it may not be for a little while, which is a different change for us.”

In the county, 501 people have had confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the majority have recovered.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,018 new cases Thursday, the largest increase in cases in a month, bringin the total to 150,450. The department also reported more than 36,000 test results.

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