DECATUR – The Macon County Health Department is urging all schools within the county to switch to remote instruction at least through January 15 as COVID-19 cases surge.
Macon County Public Health Administrator Brandi Binkley made the announcement during a press conference Monday afternoon. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District urged that county’s schools to switch to remote or virtual instruction last week.
Binkley said the county’s case positivity rate has risen from about 11% to 16.1% in the last three weeks. Binkley said the target metric is 8%. There are now 695 cases per 100,000 people in the county, which is far over the 50 cases per 100,000 threshold, she added.
The county’s COVID-19 case count has also nearly doubled during that period. There are now 5,346 confirmed cases of the virus in Macon County, including 89 deaths. Binkley said 37 people lost their lives to the illness in the last three weeks alone.
Binkley said they recommend schools switch to remote learning before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We realize that people, despite recommendations to please not gather, that they probably will. And we are already in a difficult position with numbers and resources. So we are asking people not only to not gather but for schools to go virtual,” Binkley said.
She said they’re also asking faith-based organizations to switch to virtual services through January 15, and they’re pleading with bars and restaurants to comply with state orders barring indoor service. She also thanked those businesses that have complied with mitigation orders.
Additionally, Binkley urged families not to gather with people outside their immediate households during the upcoming holiday season.
“This is the year to make sacrifices but to also think outside the box,” she said, suggesting that families get together with loved ones virtually this year.
Drew Early, president and CEO of Decatur Memorial Hospital, said the surge in COVID-19 cases is testing the limits of the county’s healthcare systems. He said a third of the hospital’s in-patient beds are currently occupied by COVID positive patients. He said there are currently 43 patients with COVID-19 at the Decatur Memorial Hospital and 162 patients that are positive across the Memorial Health System.
“It’s a very heavy lift for our frontline caregivers, for our doctors, for our nurses, for all the support personnel in the organization, and it’s up to the public to help to manage this,” Early said.
Early and other health officials urged people to wear masks, avoid leaving home as much as possible, and stop gathering with people outside their household, in addition to getting the flu shot.
Lee Gaines is a reporter for Illinois Public Media.
Follow Lee Gaines on Twitter: @LeeVGaines