Weekly COVID roundup: Cases rise and some communities revolt against tightened mitigations

Leslie Renken
Journal Star
A sign at Guilford Road and Parkview Avenue in Rockford points toward a COVID-19 testing facility at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

PEORIA – On Wednesday, the daily total of new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. exceeded 100,000 for the first time since the pandemic began, and on Thursday, the daily count was over 121,000.

This week, seven states set records for hospitalizations while seven others saw jumps of more than 45 percent in their seven-day rolling average of new infections, the best measure of how far the virus has spread, according to The Washington Post.

In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker said state officials were considering proposing further restrictions because the rise in cases and hospitalizations is unsustainable.

“In the last week alone, we’ve seen our state case positivity climb from 6.9% last Thursday to 9.1% today. In one week. That’s on top of massive growth since the beginning of October – we’ve seen our statewide case positivity rate nearly triple,” said Pritzker.

In the Tri-County Area, hospitalizations are at an all-time high, said Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson during the weekly COVID-19 press conference Thursday. About one quarter of the area’s ICU beds are currently being used by COVID-19 patients.

On Friday, there were 27 COVID-19 patients in ICU beds and 77 in non-ICU beds.

Tightened mitigations leads to revolt in some communities

Shortly after Gov. Pritzker announced tightened mitigations in Region 2, which includes the Peoria area, some local officials stood up to say no.

East Peoria Mayor John Kahl fired off a Facebook post in defense of local restaurant and bar owners, who he said barely made it through the first shutdown.

“What we saw play out in the first six to eight weeks, it was absolutely devastating to these small businesses that were shut down,” he told the Journal Star on Monday. “They have a right to make a living, they should not be treated differently than the big box stores, which, as you know, have stayed open during the duration, and many actually saw an uptick in a number of patrons while these other businesses were shut down. We have over 900 businesses in East Peoria, and we’ve treated each of them equally and fairly, and we think they have a right to stay open just like any other business.”

Officials in Woodford County and Galesburg also joined the mutiny, saying they would not be enforcing the mitigations in their communities.

On Thursday Gov. Pritzker responded with a dire warning.

“Since the beginning of October, the number of people fighting COVID-19 on a ventilator climbed from around 140 to more than 300. We've got to get these rates of community transmission down–and the only way is if mayors and city councils and county boards say, ’this needs to change,’” he said. “I can tell you these numbers until I’m blue in the face, but if local leaders don’t step up, if high-risk industries don’t act , if families don’t decide to put off that gathering, if people don’t wear a mask – we're headed down a dark, dark path toward where we were last spring.”

Election judge dies of COVID-19 shortly after working the election

A suburban St. Louis election official who worked at a polling place on Election Day despite a positive test for the coronavirus has now died, raising concerns for the nearly 2,000 people who voted there, according to The Associated Press.

St. Charles County, Mo., spokeswoman Mary Enger said in a news release Thursday that the person, whose cause of death is not yet known, was an election judge supervisor at a polling site in St. Charles, about 25 miles northwest of St. Louis. Enger said the poll worker tested positive Oct. 30 for COVID-19 and was advised to quarantine for 14 days.

“The election judge nevertheless failed to follow the advice” and worked throughout the day on Tuesday, Enger said. “Authorities have informed the County that this individual has died, although a cause of death has not been given at this time.”

Information from the Washignton Post and the Associate Press was used to compile this report.

Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.