OREGON — Ogle County positivity rate for COVID-19 rose over 20% as of Tuesday afternoon, according to county Public Health Administrator Kyle Auman.
As of Jan. 11, the positivity rate in Ogle County is 21.93% and there are 1,520.45 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, he said. The rate of cases is calculated by taking a county’s number of cases over the previous seven days, dividing that by the county’s population and multiplying the result by 100,000, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“These are the highest numbers we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” Auman said. “Other states have been seeing this, but this is something new for Illinois, unfortunately.”
Seventeen people died from COVID-19 in December, including at least one person in their 30s and one in their 40s, Auman said. Most of those who died were not vaccinated, he said.
It was one of the most fatal months of 2021 in relation to the pandemic, Auman said.
“My belief is this shouldn’t be happening, because there’s vaccines that are shown to be effective in preventing severe illness and death,” he said.
The delta variant remains the more common strand of COVID-19 in Ogle County, Auman said. It wasn’t until this week that a the omicron variant was identified in the county, he said.
The health department, local lab partners, health care providers and hospitals are able to track the different variants by sending samples in for genomic sequencing, Auman explained.
Auman said that, while it’s currently believed the omicron variant is less deadly, data suggests it’s potentially the most transmittable disease the world ever has seen.
If omicron really is less deadly, that’s good, but the transmission rate is concerning, he said.
“The more hosts it finds, the more easily it mutates into other strains, so that is concerning for public health,” Auman said. “And we still have delta, which has the ability to mutate. So we’re fighting multiple strains.”
Too few hospital beds left
As of Jan. 10, Region 1′s intensive care unit bed availability was at 5%, according to the IDPH.
Also on Jan. 10, hospitals in Rockford reported there were only two ICU beds available in the city, Auman said. It’s a situation that matters to Ogle County residents because many area patients are transferred to Rockford hospitals for ongoing treatment and care, he said.
Hospitals are looking farther out for places to transfer patients, Auman said.
“It’s certainly not a good situation to be in,” he said. “There’s many impacts that these high hospital utilizations will impact.”
Having to dedicate more and more resources toward trying to stabilize and address COVID-19 patients puts much stress not only on personnel, but also on hospitals’ financials, Auman noted. The financial challenges are compounded by the inability to perform elective surgeries and other services that generate revenue for going on three years, he said.
In many communities, hospitals are one of the largest employers and have a large economic impact on the surrounding area, Auman said.
“I think this pandemic is going to change the face of health care as we know it,” Auman said.
Staffing and payment models need to be examined, both in relation to employees and how hospitals themselves are paid, he said. What responsibilities hospitals have in a pandemic also needs to be considered.
Many hospitals are private businesses, yet “we’re expecting them to jump in like a government agency,” Auman said.
Protecting yourself and others
“Really, this is a situation where we absolutely need the public’s help,” Auman said. “We need everybody to get on board.”
Getting vaccinated — or getting the booster shot — is strongly encouraged and is one of the best protections, he said. Social distancing, masking, being mindful of interactions and staying out of large crowds are “the biggest opportunities we have to make a difference,” Auman said.
Auman also encouraged people to monitor themselves for even the most mild symptoms, and to isolate if they exhibit them, at least until testing negative for COVID-19. Additionally, it’s good to communicate with those you’ve recently been close to that they need to be careful as well, he said.
“The public needs to participate for all of us to be successful,” Auman said. “These are public health issues we all have a stake in addressing.”