Edgar County is moderate risk status for COVID-19

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 1/23/23

COVID-19 has not gone away, and nationally health officials are watching a new variant outbreak in the New England states.

Locally, Edgar County has been assigned a Moderate Risk status for …

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Edgar County is moderate risk status for COVID-19


COVID-19 has not gone away, and nationally health officials are watching a new variant outbreak in the New England states.

Locally, Edgar County has been assigned a Moderate Risk status for transmission of the disease according to Monica Dunn, administrator of the Edgar County Public Health Department (ECDPH).

Dunn discussed COVID, among other issues, with ECDPH board members during the board’s Jan. 18 meeting.

“The congregate living outbreaks we had earlier are getting better,” she added.

A concern for the local health department professionals is a slackening demand for all forms of the COVID vaccine — both the initial vaccine and the boosters. Flu vaccine requests, Duun added, have also dropped. She said the department remains supplied with vaccine and anyone interested in receiving an inoculation can call ECPHD at 217-465-2212 for more information.

Dunn also touched on the continuing problem of hiring a dentist for the department’s dental program. She said the recruitment effort has expanded to include e-mailing dental students approaching graduation.

“We have gotten one response, but that person has other offers,” said Dunn. “We are continuing to stay in touch and are trying to get her here for a visit.”

The dental program continues to do as much as possible with the staff hygienists handling preventive services, fluoride treatments and school visits.

Dunn added a boost to the program is ECPHD board member dentist Jason Graham is set up to do remote school services from his office.

“I’m encouraged by the progress to recruit a dentist,” said board president Edward Rico, a Horizon Health physician. “As past experience has shown, we need someone who is interested in public health for this to work.”

Jake Johnson, of Bellwether Management Service & Consulting, led part of the meeting. ECPHD retained Bellwether to help with human resources and guidance for conducting meetings and decisions as a public entity.

“This is a process that takes time,” said Johnson. “I’m here to support the board.”

A topic Johnson raised is the department’s by-laws which he described as straightforward and something that needs followed. He did acknowledge there are some areas of the by-laws that could benefit with updating, especially the section dealing with which medical professionals are required to sit on the board.

According to Johnson, there is a major emphasis now on access to mental health services, and he suggested having someone representing the mental health professions sit on the board.

Dunn agreed. She said a community needs assessment for Edgar County identified mental health as an issue.

Graham suggested care be exercised in the bylaw language regarding the placing of health professionals on the board.

“The language should be the board will make the best effort to fill the professional position,” said Graham. “I don’t want to hamstring the board if we can’t find one.”

Johnson will research the statutes on several issues and report back in February so the board can make amendments at the March meeting.

Lisa Ellis, the Edgar County Board’s delegate, raised an issue that pops up occasionally with county board members and more frequently at municipal meetings — what can be done about people living in substandard housing or the existence of poorly maintained/derelict properties?

Marissa Beck, ECPHD Director of Environmental Health, said the health department does investigations when complaints are filed but there are limits to what can be done.

“People can choose to live in unsanitary conditions,” said Beck. “As long as it doesn’t threaten the public health of neighbors, there is nothing we can do.”

Where actual public health violations exist, the health department refers the case to the state’s attorney for action. Beck added abandoned structures must be deemed a fire hazard or otherwise a threat to public health before the health department can intervene.

Board member Scott Ingrum has also researched the issue and was unable to offer any encouraging insight.

“The health department has no teeth when it comes to stuff like this,” said Ingrum.