Officials brief board members on COVID-19 pandemic
By: DANIEL WINNINGHAM
Enquirer~Democrat managing editor
Local officials provided an update on the pandemic at the May 12 Macoupin County Board meeting.
“It’s been a little exhausting but I think my staff has done as good a job as anybody in the state has to contain this,” said Kent Tarro of the Public Health Department. “I’m extremely proud of them and hope everybody feels the same way because they’ve done a great job.”
Christy Blank of the health department reported 10 active cases, with 28 individuals reported as recovered and one death.
“Currently, we’re at 39 positive cases in the county,” Blank said. “We have three hospitalized individuals, two in critical care, one that is most likely going to discharged tomorrow to long-term care rehab.”
Testing has been ongoing at the Maple Street Clinic, Blank noted.
“We continue to have our testing site in Gillespie,” she said. “We’re also working with the state right now to get all of our long-term care facilities at a congregate setting tested. We have a total of 14. We have swabbed over 300 in long-term care. we have about 900 individuals to go. We hope to be complete with those by mid-week next week.
“It’s definitely keeping us busy, (there’s) a lot going on. We’ve tested 1,057 within Macoupin County,” Blank said. “A total of close tog 1,900 have been tested in Macoupin County.”
One board member asked Blank if the woman that died earlier in the month from COVID-19 had underlying health issues.
“The only thing that we know, of course we’re bound by HIPA, the only thing we have that was shared from the family was that this individual was working a laborer position. Working up until Friday evening (GET DATE), had complained of shortness of death due to her allergies, went to bed Saturday night and did not wake up in the morning. We are not aware of any specifics. She wasn’t currently under any medical care for any acute condition. We’re not aware of a chronic condition.”
Board members received an update from the sheriff later in the meeting.
“This is getting to be very hard on everyone,” said Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl. “We’ve run into a lot of problems. It seems like I can’t through a day or two or three without something going wrong. The jail, so far, has been good. We have not gotten COVID in the jail so far.
Contract tracing a valuable tool
Throughout history contact tracing has been used successfully by public health officials to control outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections and other communicable diseases like tuberculosis.
It was used during the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak and the 2003 SARS outbreak. It is being used worldwide for the current COVID-19 outbreak.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is the process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person and the subsequent collection of further information about these contacts. It is not used to identify where, when, or how an outbreak began. Contact tracing is used to help minimize the future exposure and control the outbreak.
Macoupin County Health Department staff have used contact tracing in the past to minimize outbreaks for sexually transmitted diseases. MCPHD staff are currently conducting contact tracing for COVID-19. If a person is identified as someone exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 and they live in Macoupin County, the health department will contact them. Typically, exposure is defined as being within six feet of a contagious person for more than 10 minutes. Every effort is made to reach out to every one of the contacts, tell them they have been exposed, and give them instructions on what to do next. Public health nurses provide guidelines about self-isolation and information about possible symptoms. They answer questions and dispel myths. When appropriate they refer for testing and/or additional medical care and treatment.
Contact tracing is a laborious process. Interviewing infectious patients and reaching out to dozens of contacts takes time. When false or incorrect information is provided, the process lengthens. When there are a lot of people who are exposed, it can quickly become overwhelming to public health requiring hours of initial interviewing and follow up contacts. Information collected during the interviews is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The purpose of contact tracing is to identify additional positive cases and to reduce the spread of infection.Those with questions are encouraged to call the MCPHD hotline at 1-217-313-5078.
Testing for COVID-19 continues to be offered through the Maple Street Clinic in Gillespie. Individuals interested in testing must call 217-313-5078 to complete a screening. When a person calls the hotline number to obtain a COVID -19 test, the team will verify criteria has been met and then collect required information to complete a specimen requisition form and assign an appointment time.
The test consists of a nasal pharyngeal swab. Samples will be sent to the Illinois State Laboratory for testing. The turn around time for results varies based on the volume the State Lab is experiencing. All persons tested will be notified of results by the Macoupin County Public Health Department.
Persons with concerns regarding Macoupin County food establishments, should call the Macoupin County Public Health Department Environmental Department at 217-839-4101 or 217-839-4111. Callers should leave a detailed message which will be returned in the order they are received.
Persons with concerns regarding any public or private gathering of any number or concerns about other violations related to COVID-19, should contact their local police department or the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Department.
To see up-to-date statistics about COVID-19 cases in Macoupin County, visit and like the MCPHD’s Facebook page or, for state-wide statistics visit dph.illinois.gov/covid19.
COVID-19 data, from the Illinois Department of Public Health
State of Illinois
Positive Cases (Confirmed): 84,698
Total Tested: 489,359
Positive Cases (Confirmed): 39
Total Tested: 1,266
Total Active Cases: 10
Total Negative: 1,066
Total Pending: 161
(as of Wednesday, May 13, 2020)