Danville, Ill. (WCIA)

As the only Federally Qualified Health Center in Vermilion County, we’re learning what Aunt Martha’s role has been – and continues to be – in pandemic response.

First and foremost, Aunt Martha’s role is to be an excellent medical home to our patients.
We’ve been proud to do that in Danville since 2004, and we’re grateful for all of the 3,000-plus patients we serve in the east central Illinois region. We’d like to do more. We’re looking forward to reopening dental services across all our health centers, but especially here in Danville. We’re looking forward to growing our second clinic in the community, on-site at OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center on Logan Street.

Those are just a few of the things we’re doing in regard to our basic commitment to the community.
But, to respond to your question about the role Aunt Martha’s has played during the pandemic – I think it’s a role that will continue to evolve. And that’s essential, because the greatest challenge in front of all of us right now is no longer the virus itself. The greatest challenge we face is the fear that we’re allowing ourselves to sow in our communities.

The Commercial News reported last week (Sept. 29) on two more COVID-19 deaths in Vermilion County. There were 28 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at the time. In all, Vermilion County has had about half the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as Champaign County. Half the cases, but more deaths.
By every measure, Vermilion County lags. As The Commercial News reported, Vermilion County has the lowest vaccination rate in the state – about 36%.

At OSF in Danville, the emergency department is seeing COVID cases come in at the highest rate since December 2020 – that’s before the vaccine was available. In fact, COVID-related hospitalizations began to surge in late July and nearly tripled over the course of a two-week period in early August. Those levels have been sustained.

What’s interesting, though, and it shows the human behavior side of this challenge, is that the data also reveals that the spike in covid hospitalizations was followed by a similarly sharp increase in vaccine hesitancy rates. From July 23 (when the spike in hospitalizations started) to August 13, hesitancy increased by 42% in zip code 61832. That’s Aunt Martha’s primary service area, and Danville’s highest concentration of low-income residents. By the end of August, vaccine hesitancy had grown by 150% – mirroring the increase in hospitalizations.

Realizing that challenge, Aunt Martha’s is proud to play its role as both a health care provider as well as an advocate and even, to a degree, instigator. So far, Aunt Martha’s has fully vaccinated more than 11,000 people and administered first doses to over a thousand more. That includes nearly 600 individuals who received both doses of the Moderna vaccine at our clinic Danville, and close to 70 others who’ve received their first dose.

The COVID-19 vaccine is available and on-hand at our health center on Gilbert Street. Walk-in testing is available, too. All of our clinic staff are vaccinated.

The vaccine is available to anyone who falls within the CDCs recommended guidelines. You do not need to be an Aunt Martha’s patient to schedule a visit. COVID has killed Vermilion County residents at twice the rate of Champaign County residents. That’s two times, double the rate. It’s up to the people in the community to change that.

Pick up the phone and call. Do it today.
Aunt Martha’s phone number is easy to remember.
Just dial (877) 692-8686.
That’s (877) MY-AUNT-M.

Aunt Martha’s has been clear from the beginning that our organization is – in every way – driven by science and fully-committed ensuring the safety and health of our employees and the people we serve.
We’ve been very transparent about that, and I think that transparency has served us well because our employees, the people we take care of, and the stakeholders whose communities we help to serve have all seen that commitment play out over the course of the last 17 months.

With COVID19 cases continuing to make an impact due to the Delta variant, I would hope that those who are eligible would consider getting vaccinated to protect those that are unable to receive a vaccine yet, especially those under age 12.

We will continue to follow the CDC’s lead, and that of the Illinois Department of Public Health. This includes the recent recommendation of a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for certain groups. Aunt Martha’s patients will be contacted by their Care Team if they fall within the guidelines for a booster or third dose of their vaccine. We’re encouraging our patients and callers to check their COVID-19 Vaccination card or contact the location where they received their vaccine if they are unclear whether the current or any future recommendations apply to them.

Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness
19990 Governors Highway
Olympia Fields, IL