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Positively scary October COVID-19 numbers for Douglas County

By Colleen Lehmann, Douglas County Public Health Liaison
Looks like an innocent enough number, doesn’t it? But it carries a lot of influence. That’s the seven-day rolling positivity rate number (as of 10/16/20) for Illinois’ Region 6, of which Douglas County is a part. A seven-day rolling average is looked at to see what percentage of COVID-19 tests in a region came back positive. 

Another innocuous number, but this one is even more powerful. When a region reaches a seven-day rolling positivity rate of 8 percent or higher and remains there, the recovery phase it’s in could change, with more stringent mitigation measures put in place to help contain virus spread. 

Douglas County specifically has been moving up and down over the 10-day period from 10/6/20 to 10/16/20, with a low of 5 percent and high of 13.2. In that same timeframe, Region 6 — excluding Champaign County where frequent testing of UI students and staff was skewing numbers for the entire region — saw a low of 5.5 and high of 7.6. Factor Champaign County into Region 6 and those numbers range from 1.9 to 2.6.

Along with a sustained rise in positivity rate, other factors considered for mitigation measures include sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-like illness, reduction in hospital capacity for COVID surges, and significant COVID outbreaks within the region.

What could a return to Phase 3 mitigation mean?
When Illinois communities initially reached Phase 3 after being shut down in March, gatherings were limited to 10 people or fewer, subject to latest data guidance. Outdoor activities in groups of 10 or fewer were permitted, with social distancing. Travel was to follow IDPH and CDC guidance, and all healthcare providers could remain open with DPH approved safety guidance. Remote learning was the only allowed education option.

Employees of non-essential businesses could return to work, with IDPH safety guidance in place. Bars and restaurants opened only for delivery, pick-up and drive-through. Retail establishments could be open but with capacity limits and IDPH safety guidance, including face coverings. Barber shops and salons could remain open with IDPH safety guidance, while health and fitness clubs could offer outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training with IDPH safety guidance.

Should resurgence mitigation be deemed necessary, a return to Phase 3 could mean all or some of those things, or could be more specifically tailored to the situation. It almost certainly would include no indoor dining at food establishments, reduction in the number of people allowed to gather, reduction in hours of operation for bars and restaurants, and reduction in the numbers or percentages of customers allowed in retail establishments. 

What can you do to help?
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating … and repeating … and repeating. 

*Wear a mask when out in public. 

*Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.

*Practice physical distancing whenever possible.

*DO NOT go out in public if you are feeling at all unwell. Better to miss out on one or two get-togethers than risk infecting others when that “it’s just allergies” turns out to be COVID. 

*Let businesses you frequent know that these safety guidelines are important to you, and that their business is important to you. Encourage them to follow these guidelines, not only for the sake of your health, but their physical and financial health as well. 

*Get tested.

Why get tested for COVID-19 if you’re not feeling sick?
*Your job and/or volunteer activities put you in contact with populations particularly at risk for COVID-19 complications.

*You or a household member is at risk for COVID-19 complications.

* You are out in public on a regular basis.

*You may unexpectedly cross paths with an elderly or immune-compromised relative/friend/neighbor.

*You might be one of those folks who has COVID-19 but is completely devoid of signs or symptoms. (And if you have it, you’re spreading it.)

*You want to help local businesses stay operational by allowing the state to get a more accurate picture of what the COVID infection rate is in your community. Knowing what is happening means knowing how best to combat it. You’ve heard the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” This is absolutely the case here.

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