October 11 to October 17

Categories: Weekly Report

We had another record setting week here in Warren County with 51 new cases and 1 new death. Given that the previous peak week was last week, it’s hard to not views this as the peak of of the pandemic in Warren County thus far.

A recent new report from USA today revealed that outbreaks at the local Smithfield plant produced 177 cases of COVID-19 prior to July and 188 total cases to date. These numbers include non-residents of Warren County but were still a bit alarming to hear. The silver lining is that the state of Illinois has only attributed 11 new cases to the Smithfield plant since July. I think it’s safe to say that they are taking productive action to reduce the spread of the virus in their facility. On the other hand, the past two weeks combined have netted 89 new cases and 3 deaths in Warren county. The demographics of these cases range from the youngest to the oldest in our community. These new cases are not localized to the nursing homes nor to Smithfield. They’re moving in and out of the community as a whole.

Warren County

This week we saw three consecutive days with 9 new cases reported by the health department. With two exceptions, positivity was above the state’s 8% threshold. For the first time in a while we saw cases in the 0-10 age range and we continue to see cases in the most vulnerable demographic of 80-100.

To get a sense of just how recording breaking this week is in terms of new cases, it’s helpful to see the complete week-to-week history since April. We saw a 34% increase in cases compared to last week, the previous week. Cases this week were 64% higher than the April peak of 31 cases. Notice too that while cases in April and May did contain youth cases, they were largely contained to the 20-60 age range we’d associated with working adults. Now we’re seeing more youth cases and regular spread to the elderly. This, to me, is some indication of trading work place outbreaks like the one at Smithfield with genuine community spread.

A Look at Weekly Reporting from IDPH vs WCHD

I’ve been tracking the daily numbers from both the Warren County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The later is significant because they determine things like county and regional warning levels that could lead to new mitigation measures like increased social distancing mandates and business closures. Historically, the two sources have been pretty close. In early September I noticed that IDPH was under-reporting positive cases and positivity when compared to WCHD. After some email conversations with the WCHD, I learned that part of this appears to be from testing done in the local nursing homes. The state mandates these tests and recent rises in cases at these facilities resulted in more testing. However, the lab the local facilities were using to process the tests did not report to the central database that IDPH pulls results from. The facilities themselves do report directly to WCHD and so local authorities had an accurate picture of what was happening while the IDPH did not.

These kinds of reporting discrepancies aren’t unexpected. Disseminating test results across state and county boundaries is a difficult problem. Nobody should be screaming conspiracy here. The good news is that the problem seems to have been sorted out as results from the past two weeks are fairly similar and at least agree on warning levels. The down side is that had the IDPH been using WCHD data for the week of September 20th, we would have been put on warning on October 2nd. These county level warnings have no teeth. At best they incentivize local organizations and individuals to behave in ways that will slow the spread of the virus. They might also cause the state to send in free testing services. Acording to WCHD data, we should be going on week three of a county level warning but by IDPH data this is only week two. You can see the week to week comparison for the last four week below.

What’s Happening Regionally

We’ve seen fairly flat case numbers in the regional recently but it seems things have caught up to what we’re seeing in Warren county and what the rest of the nation is experiencing right now: the virus is spreading and case counts are up.

Knox county is seeing really troubling numbers and has had several Covid related deaths in the past week. In terms of cases per 100,000 people, the real hotspot seems to be right here in the Warren-Knox area.