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Kankakee couple Valerie Steele and Gerald Levesque embrace their pet cat, Tigger, outside their destroyed home east of Kankakee. Levesque’s quick actions saved Steele, his son and all their pets from the total loss house fire.


Karen Hemza, left, and Art Morrical, longtime neighbors in St. Anne, stand in front of the new Sunrise Center Cat Rescue at 3306 Waldron Road in Aroma Park, which will also house Furry Friend Spay & Neuter Clinic. Thanks to a $710,000 gift from Morrical, Hemza’s work with animals, most notably horses and cats, will expand to the rescue and clinic that aims to open by the end of the year.


Herscher’s Harvest View Senior Living residents, from front left, Gene Wood, Roscella Piper, and Gen Berger gather with Marjorie Kersch, standing left, and Ed Murray for a portrait. Together, the group represents 500 years of life.


Coronavirus-local
COVID cases increase, tests in demand

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the address of the Free COVID Testing Site (FCTS).

KANKAKEE — Neither rain nor sleet can stop a postal carrier. The elements also don’t stop those seeking COVID-19 tests.

While snow and sleet poured down midday Tuesday, about 25 people waited in line outside of the Center for COVID Control on Schuyler Avenue, where free PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid testing were available.

John Mullen, of St. Anne, had been waiting in line at the 275 S. Schuyler Ave. location for about an hour by the time he was near the front, his third attempt to get tested in the last two days.

He said on Monday he arrived 30 minutes before the center opened at 8 a.m., but there was already a line forming down the block.

“I didn’t even get out of my car,” Mullen said.

Others in line had less trouble, like Kenneth Holmes, of Kankakee, who said he had been waiting for about 40 minutes, and the center was the first place he went.

COVID tests have become increasingly in demand and hard to find in recent weeks as cases rose, people traveled and gathered for holidays and winter breaks and concerns about the omicron variant grew.

In Kankakee County, there have been 745 new cases and 13 COVID-19-related deaths since Dec. 21, according to the Kankakee County Health Department.

The county’s 7-day rolling average of COVID test positivity has increased from 8 percent on Dec. 16 to 12.4 percent on Dec. 25.

For Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties, the rate is even higher at 14 percent.

Daily test result totals can be found at dph.illinois.gov/covid19/data/region-metrics.

“Obviously, there is a shortage all of a sudden,” Kankakee County Health Department Administrator John Bevis said about COVID tests. “The surge has caught everybody off guard again across the country, so they are allocating some of the tests that were coming here locally to other places, so we’re not even getting some at the health department right now.”

Fadi Mohammad, who owns the Free COVID Testing Site (FCTS) at 195 S. Washington Ave., Kankakee, which has been operating for about four months, said demand has risen these past three weeks.

“We’ve always had a good amount of people coming in to test before, but within the last couple of weeks, it’s just changed, probably three to four times more,” Mohammad said.

He said the location has had to order more tests and hire another staffer. Turnaround time for PCR testing has increased from 24 to 48 hours to 72 to 96 hours, according to Mohammad.

Bevis said anyone who feels like they have been exposed or attended an event where someone tested positive can get tested if they are asymptomatic, but they should definitely get tested if they develop symptoms.

“We’re not saying don’t go to your New Year’s Eve parties and things like that, but if you’re going to be going, please, take the precautions by trying to wear the masks indoors,” Bevis said. “If you’re vaccinated, you’re going to be protected more so than somebody who’s not.”

State and federal officials have talked in recent days about utilizing state agencies locally and sending Americans at-home tests to ease the testing shortage.

Mohammad said testing sites like his can also help to take the burden off of pharmacies and medical clinics that have been overrun with testing appointments.

“To be able to give people that opportunity to come in and get peace of mind, and [testing] being completely free for them, while still taking some of the pressure off of the pharmacies, these medical clinics, you know, I feel like it’s a great thing,” he said.


Dylan Mercier’s 2005 Mack semi-tractor and trailer, decked out in a fire-themed wrap from Fastlane Wraps of Chebanse.


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