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St. Clair County health officials discuss rising COVID-19 cases, Omicron variant

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St. Clair County continued to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, while hospitalizations also increased but deaths fell for the week of Nov. 25-Dec. 1, officials said at a briefing Wednesday.

All 27 ZIP codes reported an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Health Department Director Myla Blandford also discussed the Omicron variant while encouraging vaccinations. The first detected case of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the United States was found in California, federal officials confirmed Wednesday.

“Again, this is a variant that’s been labeled a variant of concern because there’s certain characteristics that have been identified that would make us believe it could be more contagious or more transmissible. That being said, vaccine is still our best option to fight this pandemic,” Blandford said.

“There are ongoing studies to the efficacy of our current vaccine in relation this variant. Some of the illness that’s been reported has been mild. But, again, we want to go ahead and do the best that we can and take all the necessary steps to prevent illness.

“So, again, get your vaccine. wear masks in crowds, make sure you’re washing your hands ... and we hope that everybody will partake in our local resources we have to fight those.”

Overall, St. Clair County health officials announced 611 new COVID-19 cases the past week. That number is up sharply from 547 the week of Nov. 18-24 and 472 the week of Nov. 11-17.

Additionally, the county announced one new death — a man in his 70s with unknown health conditions — after reporting two from Nov. 18-24.

Hospitalization numbers in St. Clair County increased as well, from 31 last week to 49 this week, health officials reported during the weekly briefing. The number of patients on ventilators, however, dropped from two last week to one this week.

Overall, the county now has 42,651 COVID-19 cases — including 1,630 the past three weeks — and 570 deaths since the pandemic began.

St. Clair County health officials also continue to see higher case numbers among the younger population:

  • 58% of current positive cases are under 40.

  • 28% of current positive cases are under 20.

  • 15% of current positive cases are under 10.

COVID still hitting unvaccinated people hardest

The latest data from local medical facilities continues to show unvaccinated people stand a higher chance of being hospitalized than vaccinated people, if they catch the COVID-19 virus.

Blandford presented a graphic from Touchette Regional Hospital, Memorial Hospital and HSHS St. Elizabeth’s hospital breaking down overall hospitalizations, ICU patients and those on ventilators among vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Here are the results:

  • Hospitalizations: 49 people total hospitalized, with 32 of them unvaccinated. Last week, 31 people were hospitalized, with 19 of them unvaccinated.

  • ICU: Nine individuals total in the ICU, with eight of them unvaccinated. Last week, five people were in the ICU, with three of them unvaccinated.

  • Ventilators: One person on a ventilator, and that person is unvaccinated. Last week, two patients were on ventilators, with one of them unvaccinated.

“As Myla stated early, we encourage everyone to continue to seek out resources to get the vaccine. We have it readily available here,” said Randy Randolph, operations manager of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency. “It’s available not only through the health department, but also from local providers and pharmacies and things like that. So there’s no reason why access is a problem today. We don’t have that issue anymore. And that’s a good thing.”

He also offered guidance for hesitant individuals.

“If you’re hesitant about getting the vaccine or about the boosters, there’s plenty of resources out there on the health department’s website as well as the CDC to help guide you in making that decision for you or a loved one,” Randolph added. “Let’s continue to battle this virus and we will see the end of it if we work together. And I know Team St. Clair can do that.”

Madison County, Region 4 hospital figures

On Monday, nearby Madison County reported 353 new cases and one new death for the period of Nov. 25-29. Overall, as of Wednesday, Madison County had reported 41,865 cases and 617 deaths since the pandemic began.

Also, the Madison County Health Department reported 32 patients hospitalized Monday and six people on ventilators. Those numbers are down from 37 hospitalizations and eight individuals on ventilators from the last time Madison County reported data Nov. 22.

Of note, the health department recently announced on its Facebook page that it will provide data updates Mondays and Thursdays only moving forward.

Where to get vaccinated in St. Clair County

The St. Clair County Health Department’s location at 330 W. Main St. remains open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays for vaccinations.

All three vaccines — Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna — are offered every day there for anyone 12 and older. Appointments are recommended but not required. People can schedule an appointment at www.co.st-clair.il.us/departments/health-department or by phone at 618-233-7703.

Additionally, the health department is now offering Pfizer vaccine clinics for children age 5-11 at the department headquarters, 19 Public Square, Belleville.

The clinics take place from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. People should call 618-825-4447 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday to make an appointment or visit https://www.co.st-clair.il.us/departments/health-department to register. Appointments are required.

Various pediatric physician offices, Walgreens and CVS are offering the shots for young people, health officials said recently.

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