As of Monday, March 23, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Southeastern Illinois. However, several cases have been confirmed in the southwestern part of the state. Williamson County reports one case, with two in Madison, three each in Clinton and St. Clair and one in Washington County.  There are confirmed cases in 31 of the state's 102 counties now, with Monroe County being the latest addition to the list.

In neighboring Indiana, two confirmed cases have been reported in nearby Gibson County. They include a 33-year-old individual and a 65-year-old patient.  Indiana now reports 259 positive cases statewide with seven deaths.  Other counties in Indiana reporting confirmed cases include Vanderburgh County with one, Vigo with one and Dubois County with one.

The number of reported cases in the Illinois continues to rise sharply.  During Governor J.B. Pritzker's daily COVID-19 press briefing Monday afternoon, it was announced there were 236 new cases over the previous 24-hour period.  The number of cases statewide stood at 1,285 with twelve deaths. There were three new deaths reported over the previous day-all in Cook County. They included two men in their 80's and one man in his 90's. As of Monday, the state had completed 9,868 COVID-19 tests.

Dr. Patrick Molt Speaks Out About COVID-19

Dr. Patrick Molt, noted Fairfield Memorial Hospital surgeon and president of the hospital board offered some strong advice about the virus. “This a very contagious virus. It is a slow motion catastrophe,” Dr. Molt said. “People really need to take the social distancing and hygiene measures very seriously. If you are sick-stay home. COVID-19 is much more contagious than the seasonal influenza-and a lot more serious.” Dr. Molt added that fortunately, only a small minority of patients get seriously ill from the virus. “These are folks with underlying health conditions such as cancer, immune disorders and those over the age of 60,” Dr. Molt said. “People can be assured that we are ahead of the curve at Fairfield Memorial Hospital. But I can't stress enough, don't be out running around more than you have to and do not take any unproven treatments.”

Dr. Molt says he believes an approved treatment for COVID-19 may be only a few weeks away. “There is already widespread testing of a drug called Hydroxy-chloroquine in New York,” Dr. Molt said. “It has a lot of side effects but there is some good information about treatments coming out. As for Hydroxy-chloroquine-don't run out and ask your doctor for it.”

Local hospitals are responding quickly to the pandemic. At Fairfield Memorial Hospital, officials established an alternate care site respiratory clinic. The facility has been set up in a tent in the parking lot of the Medical Arts Complex and is open Monday thru Friday from 8 am until 8 pm. The alternate clinic is for anyone that has signs and symptoms of a respiratory illness.  Signs and symptoms include a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, shortness or breath/rapid breathing; new or worsening cough or has been exposed to a person that has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. After 8 pm and on weekends, patients should report to the hospital's emergency room.

At Hamilton Memorial Hospital in McLeansboro, a triage tent has been installed outside the emergency department at 611 South Marshall Avenue in McLeansboro.  Officials stress the facility is NOT a COVID-19 testing center, but an area to evaluate patients showing up at the emergency room with respiratory or influenza like symptoms. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not seek emergency care unless they are in medical distress. They should instead contact their medical provider.

Who gets tested?

One of the most frequent questions being asked is “who gets tested?” According to the Illinois Department of Public Health's “COVID-19 Testing Decision Matrix” persons under investigation for testing at a Department of Public Health laboratory include just two groups. First – persons (may include residents or staff) who are part of a cluster of two or more possible or confirmed cases in a residential congregate setting that serves more vulnerable populations such as an assisted living facility, group home, homeless shelter or correctional settings. The other group includes patients hospitalized with unexplained pneumonia. Patients that do not meet the IDPH laboratory testing criteria are being evaluated by their healthcare provider who will determine the need to proceed with testing at a commercial or hospital laboratory.

For up to date and factual information about COVID-19 in Illinois, you can access the Illinois Department of Public Health website at www.dph.illinois.gov. From there, simply click on the COVID-19 link. The site also provides a map showing which counties have confirmed cases of the virus.