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The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 30 counties in Illinois are considered to be at a warning level for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A county enters a warning level when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase.

Thirty counties are currently reported at a warning level: Bond, Bureau, Cass, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, DeKalb, DuPage, Effingham, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jackson, Jasper, Jersey, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Morgan, Pulaski, Schuyler, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Williamson.

Vermilion County Public Health Administrator Doug Toole issued a press release about the warning.

“Vermilion County is at a warning level for COVID-19 for the week of August 30 – Sept. 5,” Toole said. “We were placed at the warning level because of our number of new cases per 100,000 (anything over 50 is considered excessive) and because of an increase in our Emergency Department visits for COVID-19-like illnesses (increase by 20 percent over the last 2 weeks). That same week, our positivity rate increased to 3.8 percent. While that is still under the warning level, it is not the direction we want to be headed. We tested more people that week, which normally reduces the positivity rate, but this week they increased the rate. That means we are seeing a wider community spread.”

Though he hoped otherwise, Toole said he expected Vermilion County to stay on the warning list for the week of Sept. 6–12.

“This is a warning, and an opportunity for us to remind and encourage businesses and residents to be thoughtful,” he said. “If we remain on the warning list, and other counties in our region do, as well, the state might temporarily tighten up some of the guidelines to aid in social distancing and help us to return to a lower risk situation.”

Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with college parties, weddings, large gatherings, bars and clubs, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home. Cases connected to schools are beginning to be reported. General transmission of the virus in the community is also increasing.

Public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings. In some counties, local law enforcement and states’ attorneys are not enforcing important mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings. Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing and are not providing information on close contacts or answering the phone. Individuals are also waiting to get tested believing their symptoms are allergies or some other cause.

Several counties are taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus, including increasing testing opportunities, working with schools, meeting with local leaders, and educating businesses and large venues about the importance of mitigation measures.

IDPH uses numerous indicators when determining if a county is experiencing stable COVID-19 activity, or if there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county. A county is considered at the warning level when at least two of the following metrics triggers a warning.

- New cases per 100,000 people. If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.

- Number of deaths. This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.

- Weekly test positivity. This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.

- ICU availability. If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.

- Weekly emergency department visits. This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like-illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.

- Weekly hospital admissions. A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.

- Tests performed. This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.

- Clusters. This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.

These metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as what activities they choose to do. The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.

A map and information of each county’s status can be found on the IDPH website at https://www.dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics.