With COVID-19 positivity rates on the rise in our area, health officials are reminding the public to keep their guard up.
Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee counties, has a 7-day positivity rolling average of 5.1% as of April 5. Region 8, which includes DuPage and Kane counties, has moved up to 7.1%. The Naperville COVID-19 dashboard shows 596 active cases as of April 8. That’s an increase of 252 from two weeks earlier.
“We’re seeing an increase in cases, I know that our hospitalizations are up, and you know we’re seeing transmission in our community. And I worry about the population that hasn’t been immunized yet,” said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control at Edward Hospital. Pinsky says according to data from DuPage County, there has been a sharp increase in infections in the 20 to 60 year old age group.
The Will County Health Department says the public should be vigilant and continue to follow COVID-19 safety precautions. “As the weather gets nicer it is important not to let our guard down,” said WCHD Epidemiologist Alpesh Patel in a press release. “Although we are seeing more people vaccinated, we are also seeing an increase in COVID related hospitalizations, and have started to see the presence of variant strains in our communities.”
One of those strains is B.1.1.7. also known as the U.K. variant. On Wednesday CDC director Rochelle Walensky said B.1.1.7. has become the dominant strain in the U.S.
“I do have concerns that it’s more transmissible and that may be part of the reason why we’re seeing an uptick in cases,” said Dr. Pinsky. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports there are 552 cases of B.1.1.7. in Illinois. Of those, 47 are in DuPage County and 10 are in Will County.
Avoid Large Gatherings
No matter the strain, large gatherings have the potential for larger spreads. The Will County Health Department says a recent outbreak of 20 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases came from a series of major wedding events, where those present had “limited regard for masking and social distancing.”
“We understand how difficult it has been to put off large gatherings, but at this time we know that these gatherings can still turn into super spreader events with devastating outcomes,” said Patel. “If we can all just hold on a little longer, we will be able to get to the other side of this pandemic.”
And though Pinsky says schools are relatively safe for kids as long as proper mitigations are followed, he does have some concerns when it comes to the younger population.
“I think we worry more about the activities after school which would include sports where there may be closer contact, more opportunities to transmit the virus,” said Pinsky.
But the battle to combat the virus is making progress on at least one front – vaccinations. The DuPage County Health Department reports that one in three DuPage County residents have now received at least one vaccine dose. One in five are fully vaccinated. The IDPH reports that nearly 17% of the Will County population is fully vaccinated.
Beginning April 12, vaccine eligibility will expand to include those 16 years of age and older in Illinois. But as residents wait to get their turn, DuPage County Health Department executive director Karen Ayala asks all to stay the course, and be vigilant.
“It is critical for all of us to come together to prevent another surge,” said Ayala in a press release. “We must practice the public health guidance that we know works for a little longer to help protect those in our community who have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands!”
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ and Kim Pirc report.
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