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By Beth Zumwalt
COVID is moving at a fast pace–both the disease and mandates concerning the pandemic that has wrecked havoc on the world the past 18 months.
“We have more cases now than we did in January and 20 percent of those are younger patients,” Sharon Bargmann, spokesperson for the Pike County Health Department. “There is at least one younger Pike County person on a ventilator. There are nine people hospitalized, currently, including a young child.
According to the Pike County Health Department, since Aug. 23, 84 cases if COVID-19 have been reported to their agency. There has also been one more death, bringing the total deaths attributed to COVID to 63.
“The rapid test just shows yes or not,” Bargmann said. “But we do know the Delta is widespread and people are getting sicker and there are more hospitalized. It is brutal.”
The latest statistics show in the 84 newly reported cases eight were between the ages of 0-9, 14 between the ages, of 10-19, 10 in their 20s, 13 in their 30s, 15 in their 40s, 11 in their 50s, eight in their 60s, 2 in their 70s and 3 in their 80s. The death was a person in their 80s,
“If you test positive for COVID, people who are close to you will be called by a contact tracer,” Bargmann said. “That call will be made from a computer with the number 312-777-1999. It is not spam. If we make two attempts in 48 hours to reach you and don’t get an answer, we will send law enforcement to do a well-being check. We have had to contact at least two people who were not okay and needed the ambulance. We also call back throughout the quarantine time to make sure you are okay.
As per the governor of Illinois latest mandate, individuals in congregate areas must have vaccinations against the virus.
Teachers have to be vaccinated by Sept. 5.
“Of the teachers at Pittsfield High School, 85 percent are vaccinated, Carol Kilver, superintendent of Pikeland School District, said. “The other two schools, the teachers have questions.”
If a teacher decided not to vaccinate, they will be required to test at least one time per week.
“Right now we have it set up for Tuesdays through Septmber.,” Kilver said. “We won’t know our schedule until after then or if we will increase the testing to more than once a week.”
Kilver said the testing would be free and administered at the school to make it convenient for the staff choosing that option.
“The Illinois Federal of Teachers, the union the teachers belong to, has endorsed he vaccination,” Kilver said. “Representatives of the local union were to meet with regional leadership, Monday night.”
Mike Smith, union representative for the local teachers union, said they did meet with the union representative and presented their questions. He said they are waiting on answers but couldn’t discuss the teacher’s concerns.
Meanwhile, amongst the always chaining protocols and mandates, health care workers are struggling to keep up and are often times not making the grade.
“I know Blessing is not accepting any transfers,” Kathy Hull, CEO of Illini Hospital, said. “Most of the hospitals are full. There have been times when we have called 30 places trying to get a bed for a patient.”
Hull said Illini is full and has patients on the floor that would normally be transferred to another facility, but none are available.
But, bed space is not the only problem. Staffing is an important issue. There has been a nursing shortage nationwide since before the pandemic, which has only worsened the situation.
“When I got my masters, I wrote my thesis in 2009, it was on staffing concerns,” Hull said. “We are there.”
Hull attributed the shortage to a number of reasons.
“Baby Boomers are retiring, other nurses don’t want to do it again. They did it once, thought it was over and now here we are doing it again,” Hull said.
Hull said it is not just the nursing staff or direct care staff, but, staffing shortages exist in the laboratory, radiology, at all levels of patient care.
“It is not unique to this area or even this state,” she said. “It is a nationwide issue. We do the best we can with what staff we have, by re-locating or reassigning. It’s a day-to-day event of a chess board. We just move people around for the maximum coverage and safety.”