There were 41 COVID-19 related deaths in Macon County in January
Decatur and Macon County residents continue to experience some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-one county residents lost their lives due to COVID-19 related deaths in January, and 13% of the county’s 307 COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic were last month. In the first month of 2022, 9% of Macon County residents tested positive for COVID-19 and there were 9,386 new cases of COVID-19 among Macon County residents (n = 103,998 residents).
COVID-19 metrics remain elevated and in some cases are near pandemic highs including % hospital beds used. Macon County’s seven-day case rate per 100k is 1,276 (state warning level = 50 per 100k) and % positivity is 17% (state warning level < 8%) (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 our 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, a regular occurrence for those that have stood in lines or waited in seating areas.
Not only does living and working in unsafe conditions threaten one’s health and safety, it has a direct economic impact on their families and the city as a whole. 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 explaining the need, 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.”
To reduce the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, citizens can adopt well-established COVID-19 safety practices. I thank the many entities that are following best practices including being vaccinated and boosted, wearing a face covering indoors, and social distancing. 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.