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One new COVID-19 death reported; Driver services offices to remain closed another week

State Journal Register

Friday, January 14, 2022  |  Article  |  Dean Olsen

A Sangamon County woman in her 70s became the county’s 326th reported COVID-19-related fatality Thursday.

The woman, who had been fully vaccinated but hadn’t received a booster shot, tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 3 and died Wednesday, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.

State officials say they don’t know whether the latest surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths — fueled by the omicron variant — has hit its peak, though increases in the average daily number of new cases eased this week and declined between Wednesday and Thursday.A total of 37,048 new COVID-19 cases were reported statewide on Thursday, along with 142 new deaths.

Sangamon County set a new record for daily cases, with 1,345 positive test results for county residents reported Thursday. And a record number of county residents with COVID-19, 116 people, remained hospitalized Thursday.

The average daily number of new COVID-19-related deaths has continued to rise throughout the state since the beginning of the month.

Public health officials say deaths are considered a “lagging indicator” of the spread of COVID-19 because deaths can occur weeks to months after infection.

In another sign of the ongoing surge, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said all SOS and driver services facilities in Illinois will remained closed to in-person transactions an additional week. Reopening now is scheduled for Jan. 24.

The SOS offices and driver facilities first closed Jan. 3 because of the surge in COVID-19 cases statewide. The driver services facilities that operate on a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule will reopen Jan. 25.The offices previously had been scheduled to reopen Jan. 17 and 18.

“After careful consideration and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to extend the closures of offices and driver services facilities an additional week ... due to the continued high number of COVID-19 cases,” White said in a news release Thursday.

“The health and safety of employees and the public remains my top priority, and face-to-face transactions potentially increase the further spread of the virus," he said. "We are pleased to see what appears to be the beginning of a downswing in COVID-19 cases and, if this trend continues, we will reopen Jan. 24 for face-to-face transactions.”

To help hospitals manage the surge, Memorial Health officials say people who have mild symptoms of a suspected COVID-19 infection or need testing to meet return-to-work or return-to-school requirements shouldn’t go to hospital emergency rooms.

“However, if you experience a health emergency or serious COVID-19 symptoms, like shortness of breath, go to your local emergency department immediately,” said Dr. Rajesh Govindaiah, senior vice president and chief physician executive of Memorial Health.

For those experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms such as a head cold, Govindaiah said: “Act as if you have a COVID-19 infection. Wear a medical-grade mask, and isolate from family and friends for at least five days. Use local pharmacies, county health departments, COVID-19 pop-up testing sites or the University of Illinois Springfield SHIELD program for testing.”

More information on COVID-19 testing is available from Memorial at memorial.health/covid-19-information. Testing site information also is available from the Sangamon County health department at bit.ly/SangamonTesting.

Govindaiah said patients seeking information about monoclonal antibody therapy — a treatment that helps prevent severe symptoms from developing in high-risk patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 — should check first with their primary care physician to determine whether they qualify for the treatment.

In other news related to COVID-19, five Springfield School District 186 classrooms across three elementary schools will take "adaptive pauses" Thursday and Friday.

Two classrooms at Enos and McClernand and one at Jane Addams were affected. They were scheduled to resume in-person learning Tuesday.

The pauses were related to the number of student cases and primary contacts identified, according to Bree Hankins, spokeswoman for District 186.

Parents and guardians of the students were informed in advance. Hankins said. Under an adaptive pause, students in those classrooms revert to remote instruction for those days.

Some of the students were diagnosed over winter break, which ended Monday, and had not yet returned this week. Others were diagnosed through SHIELD testing, Hankins said.

More than 1,750 District 186 students were in exclusion, according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard. Exclusions include positive cases, close contacts, those who are symptomatic and household members of symptomatic persons. Those students are engaged in remote learning.