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County's coronavirus cases sprint past 100 mark

On Monday, Kankakee County was nearing the 100 mark for confirmed cases of coronavirus. On Tuesday, the county sprinted past that milestone, ending the day with 128 confirmed cases. Tuesday also brought a new coronavirus-related death in the county, bringing the total to six.

Twice-daily reports on the Kankakee County Health Department’s Facebook page had been hovering in the single-digit range. It was a different story on Tuesday. The department’s morning update brought 18 new cases and its afternoon update brought 20.

“As you have seen, there has been a surge in positive cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours,” said a post on the department’s Facebook Tuesday afternoon.

The department attributed the jumps to increased testing at long-term care facilities with active outbreaks, as well as an increase in testing being performed by healthcare agencies in the community.

“There will continue to be a rise in numbers as more individuals are tested, this is no cause for panic,” the post continued.

During Tuesday’s daily press briefing in Chicago, Illinois officials announced the largest single-day increase of novel coronavirus-caused deaths in the state — 73 new fatalities in 14 counties — bringing the total to 380.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, added that 1,287 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours. There are now 13,549 cases in 77 counties, as of Tuesday’s afternoon briefing.

The number of actual cases is likely higher, as testing is not widely available, Gov. JB Pritzker said. About 19 percent of the 68,732 people tested for the virus in Illinois have tested positive, he added.

Pritzker added “these terrible numbers” should caution Illinoisans that the novel coronavirus pandemic is “deadly serious.” Residents should continue to follow the stay-at-home and social distancing orders, frequently wash their hands, sanitize regularly-used objects and surfaces and wear a face covering when going outside, the governor said.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has advised the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

In an IDPH survey of those who received a positive COVID-19 test seven days ago, 43 percent responded they had already recovered, Ezike said, calling it “positive news.”

“The solution [for COVID-19] isn’t coming tomorrow or next week or next month, but it is coming,” Pritzker said. “Every day that we support our health care systems, every day that we flatten the curve, that’s another day that the incredible roster of scientists and researchers and innovators in the world come a little bit closer to finding solutions in the fight against COVID-19.”

Splash Valley renovation moving forward

Renovation of the Splash Valley Aquatic Center has been taking place, and area residents will hopefully be able to once again enjoy the swim facility this summer.

The stay-at-home mandate from the state that Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently extended to April 30 could impact when public recreation returns to normal. Nonetheless, the Kankakee Valley Park District obtained permits from the state and Kankakee, and work is “well under way,” said Dayna Heitz, KVPD executive director.

Leopardo Construction, of Hoffman Estates, is the construction contractor for the work now being done.

“Leopardo has been working diligently on the interior of the building cleaning above the ceilings, replacing the ceiling tiles, assessing plumbing, HVAC, and electrical needs,” Heitz said in an email to the Daily Journal. “They have completed the bathhouse ceiling and are working on procuring the supplies [and] equipment along with working with the plumbers and electricians for lighting and plumbing replacements.”

In addition, Heitz said Hamann Wager Excavating, of Chebanse, has removed the existing lazy river and is currently back-filling the void created. Hamann Wager is also removing existing shade structures and landscaping, and will be laying out and starting to excavate for new volleyball courts, pool deck, concession stand patios and other site upgrades.

“Maverick Pools has removed the existing non-working pumps, controllers and other pool equipment and is repairing and replacing existing piping in the pool-equipment building,” Heitz said. “IT has worked on phone and internet lines along with the new camera system.”

Roofing has also been completed on the building.

It was announced at a groundbreaking in November that the board was hoping for a Memorial Day weekend opening, but delays in the bidding process pushed the opening to mid-June. The measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus could cause a delay in the park opening this summer.

The facility at 1850 River Road in Kankakee was shuttered in 2015 when the lazy river was leaking thousands of gallons of water on a daily basis due to faulty construction. The contractor in charge of the original construction went out of business.

KVPD is investing $2 million to rehab out-of-order plumbing, mechanical and chemical systems, as well as refurbishing the three-slide water slide feature and removing the lazy river attraction.

The concession’s building, locker room and volleyball court areas are also being upgraded. In July 2018, the park board sold $2 million of government obligation bonds to renovate the park.

Splash Valley will be hiring approximately 75 seasonal employees to work at the facility. Those interested in applying can do so online through the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County’s workkankakee.org site.

Manteno residents asked to get noisy to honor first responders

MANTENO — In an effort to thank Manteno first responders as well as doctors and nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic will take place Wednesday evening in Manteno.

And, in keeping with the “shelter in home” order, residents can do this from inside their homes, on their front porch or even on their sidewalks.

Organizer Sarah Marion, Manteno’s marketing and community relations director, saw a similar event take place in Chicago recently and thought it was such a great idea, she immediately set out to do a similar program in the village.

What she is asking is for Manteno residents to make a bunch of noise for about two or three minutes — beginning sharply at 7 p.m. Wednesday — as a simple “thank you” gesture for those on the front line dealing with coronavirus.

“I don’t care how they make the noise. They can bang on pots and pans, whistle, clap hands, shout. This is just a way to recognize our police, fire, doctors, nurses and caregivers,” she said.

And it gives the community, especially children, something to do.

“This gives people something to look forward to. We are all in this together,” she said.

With residents being so confined these past weeks, an outlet of some expressions can’t be all bad, she said.

Manteno Community Fire Protection District Chief Scott O’Brien said provided the department is not out on a call, they’ll be sounding their trucks’ horns and sirens as well.

“The community support is so important. It takes all of us to make a community and coming together in tough times like this shows we are all partners,” O’Brien said.

Police Chief Al Swinford said there are some silver linings to unfortunate events such as this and that is the public lets officers know they are appreciated.

“It’s nice to find out people do really care. We know they do, but it’s nice to see it,” he said. “We’ve had people drop off lunches here. We’ve had a lot of support.”

Swinford said his 19-member department will participate as well by blasting sirens.

Marion has been promoting the event on village LED boards and Facebook.

She stressed the event is only meant to last for a few minutes.

“We certainly don’t want it going all night,” she said with a chuckle.

She noted the event it set to happen rain or shine.

She also said the police and fire departments are aware of the event.

“They thought it was a cool idea, something different,” she said.

Employee at Prince Home for homeless veterans tests positive for COVID-19

Daily Journal staff report

The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed that an employee at the Prince Home on the Illinois Veterans Home campus in Manteno tested positive last week for the coronavirus.

There are no known cases in any residents, Veterans Affair officials said in a release.

The Prince Home is a standalone building on the IVHM property providing housing and supportive services for homeless veterans.

“All residents and staff have been notified and the employee is on leave for recovery,” according to a news release. “The Prince Home is following recommendations from local health officials and the Illinois Department of Public Health to safeguard everyone at the home, including cleaning and disinfecting the area where the employee worked.”

“The health and safety of Illinois’ veterans and the dedicated staff who support them is the top priority of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The department said they acted early to safeguard Illinois’ veterans by restricting visitation to essential staff, implementing strict social distancing, and encouraging residents to stay in their rooms. It also instituted health screenings for all staff and residents entering the facility — including temperature checks — and remains highly vigilant for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19.