COVID circumstances climbing in Riverbend

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WOOD RIVER — COVID-19 cases are rising again across the county and region, according to the latest data from the Madison County Public Health Department.

“We are again seeing an increase in COVID cases in the United States,” said MCHD Director Toni Corona. “There are various factors involved, including new case counts in the last seven days, but they also look at seven days of new COVID-19 hospitalizations, as well as the percentage of staffed beds occupied by COVID patients.

“The idea behind it is to give communities and individuals across the country a common picture of operations,” she said. “It can help communities or individuals to determine the impact COVID may be having where they are and take the necessary action.”

Corona said Madison County had a total of 172 new cases of COVID-19 over a three-day period, including May 21-23.

“If we look at the last 14 days and compare it to the previous 14 days, we saw an 89.5% increase in the number of new cases,” she said.

“It’s important for people to realize that COVID is still rampant,” she said. “You could be exposed to COVID in your community if you are out.

“Prevention and behavior remain the same,” said Corona. “You want to stay up to date with your COVID vaccines and boosters and are considering wearing a mask if you are indoors in confined spaces.”

Corona emphasized that the community-level data is not designed as a general mandate.

“It’s designed for people who are at high risk of serious illness or who are around other people who may be at high risk of serious illness,” Corona said. “We want to make them aware of what’s going on in their community.”

She also stressed the continued availability of COVID tests and urged people to take advantage of them.

“Testing is something we don’t talk about much anymore because it’s a bit harder to find places to get tested,” Corona said. “Even though the state has closed its community-based testing centers, testing at retail pharmacies is still widespread.

“In case people missed it, the federal government is again sending out free testing kits,” she said. “You can get up to eight of these by logging on to covid.gov. We still get people who test positive with no symptoms. So if you’re visiting someone in a high-risk situation, it’s a good idea to do a test beforehand. If you know you have been exposed to COVID, please get tested.”

Even if people think they just have a cold or are struggling with allergies, Corona said it’s still a good idea to test for COVID.

“They want to know if it’s a runny nose and allergies or something else,” she said. “Everyone needs to exercise due diligence and stay home if they are sick. If you test positive, you must continue isolation. Isolation and quarantine recommendations have not changed, and you should be home for at least five days if you test positive.

“If your symptoms have improved and you’re fever-free, you can go back to work on day 6,” she said. “You should wear a mask at all times when going back into community. It’s easy to believe that COVID has fallen by the wayside, but we want to continue to practice the best prevention behaviors so we don’t put a strain on hospitals and healthcare systems.”

Corona added that the Omicron subvariant remains the primary COVID strain found in Illinois.

“We don’t see a new prevailing variant of concern,” Corona said. “It’s important that people realize they still have to be careful and cautious. Consider the vaccine and booster if you are eligible.”