CHAMPAIGN — Two more Champaign County residents, both women in their 70s, have died of COVID-19, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced Friday.

They were the second and third deaths announced in Champaign County this week, bringing the county’s death toll to 299.

The death of a Champaign County man in his 80s was announced Tuesday.

The latest two deaths occurred over the July Fourth holiday weekend, health district Administrator Julie Pryde said.

The county has seen a sudden upswing in deaths because increasingly infectious virus variants are circulating, and more people becoming infected means more people will wind up becoming ill and hospitalized, Pryde said.

“It’s just a matter of numbers,” she said.

According to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, the new omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4 are now causing nearly 70 percent of cases in the U.S. And both may be better at evading protection from vaccination and previous infection than earlier variants.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s latest update on Friday, Champaign County continues to be at a high level of community transmission, with Champaign and Coles counties the only ones in East Central Illinois at that level.

In all, 28 counties in the state are now at high transmission level, and another 43 counties, among them Ford, Douglas, Piatt and Vermilion, are at the medium level.

When community transmission is at a high level, everyone is advised to wear a face mask at indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status.

As of Friday, there were 14 Champaign County residents hospitalized with COVID-19.

The same risks remain present that have been present all along, Pryde said.

“We can’t just let our guard down,” she said. “It’s still out there.”

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