PEORIA — In contrast to last week when he highlighted a trend of growing positivity rates in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker imparted a nugget of good news during his weekly COVID-19 update.
"Over the last seven days most of our regions have seen a slight decrease in their positivity rates, with only three seeing a statistically significant increase," he said Thursday.
Unfortunately, it’s likely only a brief plateau in the rollercoaster that is COVID-19.
"We can’t outrun this virus. It isn’t going away," Pritzker said. "Unless we get it under control either by people following the doctor’s recommended mitigations or with an effective treatment or vaccine, we will be fighting to save the Titanic with a plastic bucket."
There are signs that we are already embarking on a negative trend. Positivity rates in Peoria and Tazewell counties rose when numbers were updated on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website on Friday.
Tazewell County was also placed in the elevated, orange warning level with rising hospital admissions for COVID-like illness and an increase in the number of cases per 100,000 residents.
Coronavirus in the US
Nationally, more than 6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and more than 190,000 have died since the pandemic began in the United States, although COVID-19 cases have declined recently.
But national experts agree with Gov. Pritzker that we aren’t in the clear. Things could change drastically this fall.
"We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it’s not going to be easy," Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday.
COVID-19 vaccine update
A minor setback in the rush to find a COVID-19 vaccine happened this week when AstraZeneca announced the suspension of a vaccine trial. Researchers halted the trial when a woman participating in late-stage testing reported symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord.
According to ABC News, halting a study isn’t that unusual. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist with the World Health Organizations called it "a wake-up call" to the global community. There will inevitably be ups and downs in medical research.
The study was previously stopped in July for several days after a participant developed neurological symptoms which turned out to be an undiagnosed case of multiple sclerosis unrelated to the vaccine. According to AstraZeneca, illness of all sorts can arise in studies of thousands of people.
The vaccine is one of several under development around the world.
Efforts to curtail bad choices by university students
Bradley University made the national news when the administration quarantined the entire campus on Tuesday.
The two-week quarantine was enacted because there were more than 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus, about 500 people were in quarantine, and the university had a whopping 14.48% positivity rate. Nearly 6,000 students attend Bradley, according to its website.
"Although it may seem extreme, this move to temporary remote learning and a two-week, all-student quarantine allows us to focus on the continuity of the educational experience for all of our students while giving us time to gather data on the full extent of the spread of the virus and assess the best way to proceed as a community," the Bradley President Stephen Standifird in an email sent out to students and staff.
If the numbers don’t improve, school officials could move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester, Standifird said.
Lockdown at the University of Illinois
Not all college campuses are being as proactive as Bradley, however, which may be fueling outbreaks in communities across the nation.
According to a data analysis by USA Today, communities where the population swells by at least 10 percent when students return in the fall represent 19 of the 25 hottest COVID-19 outbreaks around the U.S.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is on that list. UIUC has been lauded for their COVID-19 testing program, which alerted officials to a rising number of cases earlier this month.
Those numbers prompted a campus-wide lock down through Sept. 16. According to Illinois Newsroom, students are only allowed to attend classes, get tested for COVID-19, shop for groceries, go to work, attend religious services and medical appointments, and engage in solo outdoor activities.
The lockdown is designed to curtail some of the bad choices students were making, like going to parties and other large gatherings without masks.
Is dining out a high risk activity?
A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that dining out during the pandemic is not a good idea.
The study of 314 symptomatic adults in multiple states showed that adults with confirmed COVID-19 cases were about twice as likely to have dined out at a restaurant in the 14 days prior to getting sick.
Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation, the study said. The fact that masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, a key difference between dining and other indoor activities, could make dining more dangerous, the study said.
Information from USA TODAY, ABC News, and Illinois Newsroom was used to compile this report.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.