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Illinois COVID-19 death total highest in weeks as Delta variant spreads
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Illinois COVID-19 death total highest in weeks as Delta variant spreads

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U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday encouraged Americans who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots to protect themselves from the widely-spreading, highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. Bryan Wood reports.

A short-lived remarkable event of no new COVID-19 deaths being recorded in Illinois on Monday was followed by the highest daily death count highest total in weeks.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday preliminarily recorded no new COVID-19 deaths, the first time no additional deaths were recorded in a daily count since March 2020.

But IDPH then recorded 16 and six new deaths on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, with Tuesday's count being the highest daily death count since June 24.

Sangamon County Department of Public Health director Gail O'Neil said it has been weeks since a death was recorded in the county. Forty-eight new COVID-19 cases were recorded in Sangamon County between Saturday and Wednesday, per county public health reports.

"Maybe there won't be a jump (following Independence Day weekend)," O'Neil said. "That would be great."

Any potential increase in COVID-19 cases as a result of Independence Day weekend won't be discernible for a few weeks as it takes time for the virus to run its course before it can be properly recorded, O'Neil said.

Since the first death in Illinois was recorded in mid-March, 23,278 deaths have been officially attributed to COVID-19 by the IDPH. Another 2,455 other deaths reported as probably being caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed millions across the globe, more than 600,000 in America, and continues to spread among unvaccinated individuals.

President Joe Biden visited McHenry County College in Crystal Lake on Wednesday to discuss health care, child care and education initiatives. He also spoke about the ongoing pandemic, saying that more than half of new cases in certain parts of the country are attributed to the new Delta variant of COVID-19.

Later in the day, Biden's claim was corroborated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported that the Delta variant is the leading variant of COVID-19 in America. Preliminary studies have found the new variant to be highly transmissible among unvaccinated individuals.

Scripps Research's outbreak.info found that the Delta variant accounts for 25% of new cases in Illinois over the past 30 days and 85% of new cases in Missouri in that same time frame. O'Neil said there have been cases of the Delta variant in Sangamon County but nothing that indicates it's spreading as quickly as it is in other areas of the country.

O'Neil acknowledged that vaccination rates in the county have slowed. She said the department is doing what it can to encourage those who are hesitant about the vaccine to listen to their family doctors or someone with medical expertise that they trust.

"We realize there's hesitancy. And we want to try to do everything we can to try to get as many people vaccinated that want it," O'Neil said.

According to IDPH, 48.58% of Sangamon County residents are fully vaccinated. Average vaccine doses per day between June 29 and July 6 have dipped to 240 in Sangamon County, a far cry from when that 7-day figure was north of 1,000 in February and March.

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