‘Things are likely to get worse’ – Officials address COVID-19 spread in Christian County

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CHRISTIAN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — As the coronavirus crisis grows in Christian County, public officials assembled a press conference Friday morning to urge community members to help them stop the virus’ spread.

Over the past three weeks, Christian County has averaged one death a day from COVID-19-related causes, Dr. Aaron Pennington of Pana Hospital said.

“Currently, you are as likely to contract COVID-19 in Christian County as you are in anywhere else in the state,” he said. “This level of spread…will eventually, inevitably, find its way into the most (vulnerable): The elderly and chronically ill in our community and in our nursing homes. This brings us to the worst news: The chronically ill and especially the residents of our nursing homes, who continue to have more severe cases of COVID-19 will continue to prematurely die.”

Illinois Department of Health metrics say counties and regions should aim to maintain a rolling, seven-day test positivity rate below eight percent.

Over the past 30 days, the county has maintained a positivity rate of 17.7 percent. More than half of all positive tests for COVID-19 have been returned in that same time period.

Officials on Friday urged county residents to avoid large, indoor gatherings; keep symptomatic students home from school; and wear masks.

“If this continues, the state may step in and do something,” Chris-Mont Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Kevin Schott said Friday.

State mitigation efforts could include the restriction of indoor dining and usage of bars, as well as setting earlier closing times for such businesses, as happened in the Metro East area earlier this year.

“Regardless of your personal beliefs about COVID-19, the fact of the matter is that the continuous, rising rate of COVID cases and infection will have a negative effect on our county’s health, economy and schools,” Christian County Public Health Assistant Administrator Caitlin Sands said.

One week ago, the ChrisMont EMA published a press release saying that a large event had been held in Taylorville against the wishes of public health and EMA leaders and a volunteer who worked the annual event, Chilifest, tested positive for the coronavirus. Prior to that, an employee of a company participating in the event also tested positive for the virus, leading officials to urge attendees to get tested themselves.

Christian County is part of the state’s Region 3 coronavirus area, which includes Sangamon, Macoupin and Cass counties as well. The entire area’s rolling test positivity rate, as of October 12, the most recent data available, was 6.3 percent.

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