BLOOMINGTON — Despite COVID statistics continuing to trend downward, the McLean County Health Department is cautioning against assumptions that the worst is over.
"It's really too soon to tell," MCHD spokeswoman Marianne Manko said. "We are keeping an eye on the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's) community transmission rate, as well as on those lagging indicators like hospitalizations."
Still, Manko and MCHD Administrator Jessica McKnight said it's a positive sign that metrics like case counts, test positivity rates and people in isolation have trended downward recently.
Cases confirmed in the past seven days fell below 300 for the first time since mid-summer. MCHD said just 267 new cases were confirmed since Oct. 6, including 35 in the past day.
Seventy of those cases were among the only age group currently ineligible to be vaccinated, ages 0 to 11. McKnight said the health department is already preparing to vaccinate that group, pending federal approval.
"We've been talking to pediatricians' offices and other health care providers because it's really going to take all of us in the community to administer this vaccine," McKnight said. "But we are ready as a health department to do this at our mass vaccination clinics as well as within our walls."
New data from MCHD indicated about 57% of kids ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated.
That percentage is higher than the county's overall rate, which sat at 54.8% Wednesday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Manko said demand for the vaccine remains steady in the county, and added that some people who have come to Grossinger Motors Arena recently have told staffers that employer mandates prompted them to finally get the shots.
"We have seen an increases in the number of people at GMA clinics over the last two weeks and a lot of those are people coming in to get their booster shots," she said. "There are people who are telling us, 'It's mandated by my boss and I'm not so opposed to it that I won't get it.' We do find that some people do get it because of a mandate."
IDPH data indicates more than 190,085 doses have been administered in the county.
Of residents ages 65 and older, 90% are considered fully vaccinated, MCHD said, and of those ages 18-64, 59% are fully vaccinated.
One person was released from hospitalization at either OSF St. Joseph or Carle BroMenn medical centers, bringing that total to 25 COVID patients Wednesday.
Total bed availability in the county remained unchanged, with MCHD reporting 93% of all beds in use. Intensive care unit bed availability opened somewhat Wednesday, dropping to 77% of all ICU beds occupied.
At either local hospitals or those outside the county, MCHD said a total of 17 McLean County residents are hospitalized because of COVID-related complications. That figure represents an 11-person drop in the past day.
Two more people have died due to COVID-related complications, MCHD reported. Two women — one in her 70s and one in her 90s — are the latest fatalities attributed to COVID, bringing that total to 265 since last year.
MCHD said both women were affiliated with long-term care facilities; health privacy concerns prevented the facilities from being named.
The number of people isolating at home fell to 256 on Wednesday, a 15-person drop from the day before.