Higher Positivity Rates and Out-of-State Gathering Both Serve as Important Reminders about Continuing to Follow Guidelines During Pandemic

The Will County Health Department (WCHD) wishes to remind the public that the Coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and that precautions that are advised must be heeded to and taken seriously.  Illinois is seeing an uptick in Coronavirus cases since July 4th, and the relaxing of requirements on social distancing, mask wearing, and holding large gatherings has been a contributing factor.

While Illinois’ Region Seven (which includes Will and Kankakee Counties) showed a seven day run of positivity rate increases as of July 30th, it must be noted that ALL Illinois zones outside of Chicago showed positivity rate increases for at least six days.  (This information is available at https://www.dph.illinois.gov/regionmetrics?regionID=9.)  WCHD Executive Director Sue Olenek says this is an absolute indication that Will County, and the entire state of Illinois, must be on alert, and must observe precautions that have been talked about since the start of the pandemic.

“We all need to do our part and heed to the precautions if we want to see better results.  When socializing and congregating started to creep back up around July 4th, people began to relax and forget about observing social distancing and being fully masked while in public.  If we do not want to go back to the “stay at home” order, we need to follow these precautions seriously at all times.”

Recently, WCHD contact tracers, speaking to residents from the Frankfort area who had tested positive for COVID-19, discovered a similar story from those tested.  They had attended a party at an orchard in Hobart, IN, perhaps designed as a substitute for missed proms at area high schools.

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that up to 270 people, high school aged students and chaperones, had attended this event.  WCHD epidemiologist Alpesh Patel says the first priority here is making sure everyone who did attend the event does the right thing.

“If you are symptomatic (such as with the commonly recognized fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat), you need to isolate yourself immediately and get tested.  If you are not symptomatic but attended this event, it is absolutely necessary to quarantine yourself for 14 days, and self-monitor for the symptoms, including taking your temperature at least three times daily.”

The second priority here, Patel continued, is to take this incident as a serious lesson that the advice given by health experts during this pandemic must, as Olenek stated, continue to be followed and taken seriously.  “We have people finding their ways to events, out of town or out of state, where the important precautions are not being observed.  You need to avoid any gatherings where social distancing cannot be practiced because it is simply impossible, and proper protection, such as the wearing of masks, is being ignored.

“We continue to tell people DO NOT HOST these types of events, and that parents need to be more careful about allowing their kids to attend such events.  Parents need to look out for lapses of good judgement, especially at times like this.”

Patel says it is also important for businesses to follow precautions, not just in the workplace but away from it as well.  “This is no time for businesses to be engaging in outings on a waterfront, or any situation where social distancing and protection will not be taken seriously.  The information is out there, but many people are falling victim to denial about what is going on.  We must continue to follow the logical advice about preventing COVID-19 that has been there from that start.  You must still avoid unnecessary outings, observe social distancing, wear your masks, and maintain proper hand hygiene.”

And how long must this be done?  The answer is simple: As long as needed.  Patel says despite the progress being made on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, he does not see it being available to the general public until perhaps early 2021.  “We have a lot more work to do.  It is simply not ready.  So in the meantime, it’s a constant truth that we must do our part, and take all precautions, to minimize transmission as much as possible.”

For more information on the COVID-19 situation in Will County, go to willcountyhealth.org.

You can also go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/covid19-statistics.