QUINCY — The Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday that Adams County was one of four at a warning level for COVID-19.
A county receives this distinction when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure COVID-19 cases increase.
Data from Adams County reveal a significant increase in the number of new cases per capita and the number of emergency room visits for COVID-19-like illnesses or symptoms, which includes new symptoms of runny nose, mild sore throat, body aches, nausea and fatigue, and the standard symptoms of loss of taste or smell, increased by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
The other three counties were La Salle, Peoria and Randolph.
The other risk indicators include: number of deaths increase by 20% for two consecutive weeks; a county's test positivity rate topping 8%; fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in a region; and a 20% increase in the number of hospital admissions for COVID-19 or similar illnesses.
The state public health department reports that Adams County residents and businesses have exhibited risky behavior, including larger social events, health care exposure, traveling to hot spots including those in neighboring Missouri and Iowa, outbreaks of the virus in places of worship, and youth sports resuming activities.
"Providers in our region are very aware that our case counts are going up," said Dr. Christopher Solaro, chief of medicine at Blessing Health System. "While we are not seeing a huge change in our hospitalization, we are seeing an increase in our emergency room visits for COVID-19-like illnesses. That increase should remind everyone that the virus is out in our community."
Officials with Adams County, Quincy and Blessing Health System say the state's announcement is another strong reminder for all residents to work together to curb the spread of the virus, which has sickened more than 400 people in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri and caused five deaths.
Adams County Health Department Administrator Jerrod Welch, said, "As we travel through the region, we urge everyone to keep one another safe and healthy by wearing face coverings, respecting a physical space of at least 6 feet from others, washing hands frequently, and staying home if you are feeling ill."
The health department reported 12 new cases on Friday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the county to 305. Health department data show that 11 people are hospitalized, and 97 people have recovered from the virus, which is a status a person with a previously active infection receives after testing negative for the virus twice.
Of the new cases, there are two women between age 20 and 29; two women between 30 and 39; a man and two women between 40 and 49; a woman between 50 and 59; and one man and three women between 60 and 69.
No other information about the new cases was released by the health department.
Maureen Kahn, president and chief executive officer of Blessing Health System and Blessing Hospital, says health system leaders are working with the state to better understand how the state is interpreting the data it acquires on the health system's COVID-19 care, and to ensure that state officials understand Blessing is a regional hospital, treating people from many Northeast Missouri and southeast Iowa in addition to Adams County.
"I appreciate the state may be concerned about Blessing becoming overwhelmed, as have providers in other parts of the country," she said. "But that is not the case. We are confident that we have the capacity and ability to address an increased demand while maintaining the highest level of safe, quality care that our patients deserve."
Solaro agreed, adding that Quincy's location as a border city does create some obstacles when it comes to stopping the spread of a virus.
"The fact that we are a border county and border community where people travel back and forth across the river does pose some challenges for us. The fact that we are not an isolated county and that gatherings are occurring across state lines where rules may be different also makes stopping the spread of the virus more complex," Solaro said.
The state is requiring no additional actions be taken or changes be made in Adams County as a result of its status change.
Kahn added, "The way to ensure additional action is not taken is for residents to take mask-wearing seriously, as well as adhering to physical distancing, particularly during these summer months where the natural tendency is to be in group gatherings."
Solaro said residents should really think twice before going out in public without a mask.
"This warning from the state means that COVID-19 is here and that it is showing up more so here than in other counties in Illinois," Solaro said. "Each of us can take it upon ourselves to wear a mask and to help stop the pandemic."