Nearly 9% of Macon County residents tested positive for COVID-19 in the first four weeks of 2022
Decatur and Macon County residents continue to experience some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first 28 days of 2022, there were 9,077 new cases of COVID-19 among Macon County residents (8.7% of 103,998 residents). Metrics remain elevated and continue to be at or near pandemic highs including seven-day case rate per 100k – 1,553, % positivity – 17%, hospital admissions, % beds used, and % ICU beds used (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home). Simultaneously, the vaccination rate in Macon County is the lowest of any central Illinois county with a mid-sized city, thereby making Decatur citizens unnecessarily vulnerable to a deadly disease whose worst effects are now mostly preventable.
In Decatur, it is widespread and commonplace to see individuals who are not implementing well-established practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19 including social distancing and wearing of a face covering. In many circumstances, individuals who are not following best practices will crowd those individuals who are wearing face coverings and attempting to social distance, a regular occurrence for those that have stood in lines or waited in seating areas.
Living and working in unsafe conditions has a direct economic impact on families and the city. Working families impacted by COVID-19 are losing income and the city’s labor force and number of employed individuals has declined since the start of the pandemic.
Using data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Decatur’s labor force has declined 4.2% from 31,743 in 2019 to 30,403 in 2021 and the number of employed individuals decreased 7.5% from 29,948 to 27,708. Individuals who have a choice in where they work may be selecting places of employment that emphasize safe working conditions and provide health benefits that allow them to stay afloat when they or their family members fall ill.
In January, the city council approved $300,000 for Dove, Inc. to provide rent, mortgage, and utility assistance to Decatur residents impacted by COVID-19. In describing the need for the funding, a letter from Dove, Inc. indicated: “We are continuing to see a need. Particularly for the working family that has to stay at home with their children because of COVID exposure or due to having COVID. We see families who live paycheck to paycheck so losing even a week’s income puts them behind. For families who have multiple children this is particularly hard when you have to take off work multiple times. … We are seeing families reach out for assistance that have not ever had to do so before.”
Rather than living and working in unsafe conditions, and people suffering the health and economic consequences because of it, citizens can adopt well-established COVID-19 safety practices. If you are not vaccinated and boosted, if you do not wear a face covering, consider recognizing the people that have chosen to do so and space yourself to minimize community spread. I thank the many entities that are following best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19 including being vaccinated and boosted, wearing face coverings indoors, and social distancing.