Categories: Site News   Warren County   IDPH

I have two things to report on today: some more site updates and some good news on the pandemic front. You read that right. Good news.

Site Updates

In my last post I talked about changes in local reporting and how that has effected this site. I’ve now brought the WCIL history dashboard back online and it will be regularly updated. For the most part it’s pulling data from the now weekly WCHD reports. Only the postivity rate data is coming from IDPH. The WCIL demographic report is also back to regular updates. This data still comes from WCHD. With the adjustments to these two pages we’re back to the full set of reports with all pages updated regularly.

In addition to reports on cases and deaths, the site now reports on a new decidedly positive piece of data: vaccinations. The daily report lists the number of new people fully vaccinated each day and recent window of the percentange of the population that is now fully vaccinated. This means two full doses of the mRNA vaccines. All vaccine data is pulled from the IDPH vaccine data page and updated on a daily basis. The history page also includes a graph for the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated. You can now watch these numbers go up and smile.

And Now The Good News

If you’ve been following the case numbers, then you’ll know that caeses are down. Way down. For most of Februrary we were below the thresholds that warn of likely community spread. This means fewer than 9 cases per week in a population our size. We have not seen numbers this low since mid Summer 2020. It certainly seems like the second spike, our worst spike so far, is over. When the April spike ended in late May/Early June we settled into a period where cases ebbed and flowed back and forth across the 9 case threshold. In mid-July cases spiked and we stayed above the community spread threshold on through the fall spike. So, after of over 6 months of problematic numbers we’ve settled back into something that hints at better things to come. Another week or two like this past week and I think it’s safe to say that Warren County has moved into some new phase of this pandemic. This phase comes on the heals of a terrible fall/winter surge but might contain a shot of good news. Well, lots of shots actually.

The last WCHD report said that we’ve had 1635 reported cases of COVID-19. That’s about 9.5% of the county. It’s possible that some of those cases were repeat tests where someone that previously tested postive was taking a test hoping that a negative result would demonstrate that they had recovered. I don’t know how often that happenes around here but I’m willing to guess that it’s not often. On the otherhand, there are most certainly people that had the virus but were not tested. As we waded through our fall spike it wasn’t undeard of to hear of whole households that were sick but where only one or two people in the home tested positive and the rest were presummed positive as symptomatic close contacts. The exact number of people in the county with antibodies from prior inffection is unknown. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s above 9.5 but I couldn’t say by how much.

On Februrary 1, 2021 IDPH reported the first batch of fully vacinated people in Warren County. This past weekend they reported that just over 10% of the county’s 17032 residents have been fully vaccinated. As of today it’s 11.39%. Coming out of the April spike we had no vaccines available. Less than 1% of the county had tested postive. While there are likely some people that had the virus, were never tested, and don’t show in the data, it seems certain that that number was small last spring and that the the vast majority of the county was made up of unprepared immune systems ripe for infection and spread. Things are differnt now. We could have around 20% of the county’s population with some level of antibody protection. Half that number are known to be fully vaccianted individuals. This is a ways away from the 80% threshold that seems to be the cutoff for herd immunity protection, but it’s loads better than where we found ourselves last summer leading into the massive fall spike.

It’s taken one month to vaccinate 10% of the county and I’ve heard of no vaccination related deaths in the county. The state is opening up vaccines to more and more people and it seems like the supply and distribution problems are starting to get worked out. Between the slow trickle of new cases and the steady uptick of newly vaccinated people, I’m oppotmistic and hopefully that COVID-19 spikes are in our past and not our future. The threat of new, more infections variants is still out there and we need to continue to exercise caution until vaccines are fully rolled out, but this looks and feels different than last summer.

One last bit of good news. Monmouth College, my employer, received a grant to adminster free COVID tests to employees and the community at large. We’re using the SHIELD test developed at UI and are one of the few places other than UI offering this to the community. The college tested all students and employees at the start of the spring semester and continues to randomly test 10% of the campus each week. You can see evidence of this with the regularly spaced spikes in new tests on the daily report. This kind of testing is new for the county. Prior to this testing was largely reactive. Symptomatic people got tested and the state sent in free testing when we saw spikes. What’s happening at Monmouth College is proactive testing. It lets the college and by extension the town get a more accurate feel for what’s going on and positions us better to prevent spikes from happening rather than trying to slow them down.