ILLINOIS (IRN) — Health officials in rural parts of Illinois are sounding the alarm as COVID-19 infections increase.
Numerous counties have been put on a warning list by the Department of Public Health, including many in smaller nonmetropolitan areas.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said last week that while the positivity rate for the nation as a whole declined over the past 4 weeks, it had increased in Illinois for that period.
“We are going in the wrong direction,” Ezike said.
One county that is seeing a spike in cases is Effingham County. Deena Mosbarger, the public information officer for the health department, said the positivity rate there is up more than 8 percent.
“We have been having a significant number of positive cases over the last several weeks mainly due to large groups that are gathering without adhering to the precautions,” she said.
Mosbarger said she has noticed more people wearing masks as a result.
As of Thursday, hospitals in Effingham County had the capacity to handle additional patients. A spokesman for HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham said officials were monitoring the situation.
“We are continuously evaluating how to best align our staff and supply resources with the evolving patient demand,” Dr. Ryan Jennings, chief medical officer of HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham, said in a statement. “Since this pandemic began, we have been assessing the situation at all of our sites in the local community to ensure we can meet patient needs across our collective service areas, and we are closely coordinating with public health officials. Our COVID-19 positive patients make up only a small percentage of our overall ICU capacity.”
Another county that has reported a spike in cases is Coles County. With a population of about 53,000, the county has had more than 800 COVID-19 cases and its recent rate of new cases outpaced Cook County by a margin of three-to-one.
Susan Jenkins, a co-chair of the citizen action group Cole’s Progressives, said local residents were not taking the virus seriously.
“People are not abiding by IDPH guidelines,” she said. “The county and the city do not feel the need to enforce those guidelines.”
Other rural counties that have reported an increase in COVID-19 cases include Jefferson, Cass, Clay and Henderson, Greene, Union, Moultrie and White counties.