COVID-19: Onarga reports Thursday, 36 cases in Clifton zip as Iroquois County addresses concerns


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Iroquois County officials met Thursday afternoon for an update on all things COVID-19, including the announcement that there are now 84 cases in the County.

Of those, 36 are in Clifton, per IDPH.

Clifton is the home to Ascension Presence Merkle Kipprath nursing home, where two COVID-19 cases were confirmed last weekend. Yesterday, Iroquois County Public Health reported a sudden jump in area case numbers, with 22 of 27 cases being of the age 60 and over. That report leads to local speculation of a possible outbreak at the Clifton nursing home.  

“There’s a huge backlog in testing,” Iroquois County Public Health Department Administrator Dee Ann Schippert said during a press conference on Thursday. “It’s taking a lot longer than 3 hours to get test results.”

Schippert did confirm Thursday afternoon at least one patient was in a local ICU. To date, Iroquois County has had one death due to COVID-19.

“There’s going to be some lag time. I searched last night, late last night when I got home from work, probably about midnight I searched just to see if anything new had popped up on there. It still only lists two cases. We know that number has a possibility of increasing at any time. It’s going to take a few days before they have the opportunity to update that,” Schippert said during the press conference, hinting at an outbreak of new cases at the facility citing the Illinois Department of Public Health long-term case website.

There has been no statement has been released by the Clifton long-term care facility. Long-term care facilities cases are normally updated every weekend by IDPH.

On Thursday, one case was announced in the 60+ category.  

“The one thing I can tell you is we update our numbers every day. They’re the most accurate, current numbers we can provide to you on our press releases. So our numbers are almost always going to be larger than what you see on the IDPH website.” Schippert added.

Schippert added locals are upset the recoveries from COVID-19 are not removed from total County numbers.  

“We’ve had public outcry. There are a lot of people who really want us to take off the recovered cases off of our case count. That’s not how statistical information works. It doesn’t work that way.” Schippert said Thursday night, adding the assumption is given people can work with numbers to get an active case count for the area.  

 “This number will never decrease,” Schippert added.

During today’s meeting, Iroquois County Board Chairman John Shure addressed locals’ concerns with businesses, suggesting priorities may not be focused on the battle ahead against COVID-19 in Iroquois County.

“There are many difficult questions to ponder, that perhaps the most important is what could happen if we go back to normal, too soon? Will there be a large uptick in infection and death? Is restarting the economy more important than managing the pandemic? Is there a way to do both?” Chairman Shure asked during the press conference before highlighting the Restore Illinois plan.

Just six new cases were announced Thursday by Iroquois County Public Health. Administrator Schippert reports of Iroquois County’s 84 cases to date, 22 have since been released from isolation. Six of those cases are currently hospitalized while 55 are isolated at home.  

Iroquois County falls under Region 6 as a divided region for Central Illinois.

Iroquois County Medical Director Dr. Philip Zumwalt addressed the different delivery systems and symptoms of the virus that’s known to date during the meeting.

 “It is known that Coronavirus is a large family of viruses. And is known to circulate along people at time s but has also been shown to be in animals such as camels, cats, and bats. This is now known to evolve with and can spread through people and then it spreads,” said Dr. Zumwalt.

The virus has also been found in Cattle, according to the CDC.

“Symptoms seem to appear within two to fourteen days, fever, cough, shortness of breath to the point of needing oxygen, and possibly a ventilator. As well as headache, muscle ache, sore throat, and other unusual finding is the loss of smell or taste. New information that’s come out is it also may be causing some clotting disorders in the blood that’s lead to strokes and heart attacks and pulmonary emboli.  Where some of the people that seem to be getting better on the ventilator relapse and die and it’s looking like it was pulmonary emboli that was causing the secondary problem.” Dr. Zumwalt added during the press conference.  

Highlighted during Dr. Zumwalt’s address was the recent discovery COVID-19 can be aerosolized by sneezing and coughing, lasting in the air for many minutes after a person has been in the area.

The new information comes the same day Onarga began reporting cases, as 7 are now confirmed via IDPH for the zip. A reminder to area residents, IDPH will not report on a specific zip code until at least five cases have been confirmed due to privacy concerns.

To what Thursday’s press conference, click here.


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