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Watch now: McLean County urges testing after 383 new cases reported, new variant looming

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With a new COVID-19 variant gaining attention worldwide and 383 new cases in the county, the McLean County Health Department is urging residents to get tested after the long holiday weekend.

BLOOMINGTON — With a new COVID-19 variant gaining attention worldwide and 383 new cases in the county, the McLean County Health Department is urging residents to get tested after the long holiday weekend.

“We are learning as much as we can as quickly as we can" about the omicron variant, said Marianne Manko, spokeswoman for MCHD.

On Friday, the World Health Organization designated the omicron variant as a "variant of concern,” the most serious designation. The Delta variant, which resulted in a resurgence of COVID mitigations in Illinois, was given the same designation in May.

Several countries have implemented travel restrictions in response to this variant, including President Joe Biden on Friday announcing plans to ban travel between the U.S and eight countries in southern Africa.

Facing new COVID Omicron variant, Biden, Fauci talk vaccinations and travel restrictions

No state-mandated mitigations have been announced for Illinois, but state and local health departments as well the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are monitoring the variant’s spread.

"In Illinois, we're closely monitoring the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a tweet Monday. "We will continue to be guided by the great work of our doctors, researchers, and public health scientists.  Vaccines and boosters remain the best way to protect ourselves and our communities."

The McLean County Health Department on Monday said the 383 new cases were calculated since Nov. 24, and over the last five days, Saturday saw the highest number of positive tests at 129.

The rolling seven-day positivity rate is 6.2% through Sunday. The total known cases in McLean County in the past 20 months is 25,010 and 24,097 of those are considered to be recovered.

About 5,800 COVID-19 tests were conducted over the four-day holiday weekend in McLean County, “which is approximately the recent average number of tests over a 2-day weekend,” according to MCHD, noting its effect on the positivity rate.

According to the CDC, McLean County is experiencing high community transmission, as is most of Illinois.

MCHD recommends anyone who does not have symptoms but might have been exposed to someone with COVID to get tested five to seven days after that exposure.

If a person is exhibiting symptoms, they should be tested immediately, Manko said.

“Early detection allows individuals to gain guidance for medical treatment during early stages of the disease, which can reduce the need for hospitalizations, and can also reduce deaths,” according to MCHD. “Testing also helps us quickly identify and isolate new cases, which reduces further spread of the disease.”

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, whose office covers schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean counties, said it is too soon to tell if adjustments will need to be made to account for the omicron variant in the last few weeks of the fall semester.

However, school districts will “certainly have last year's adaptability to refer to and adjust accordingly,” he said, noting any changes to learning models will be made in consultation with local health departments and recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and state Board of Education.

Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.


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