Editor's note: The Kankakee County Health Department said Tuesday it will begin administering pediatric vaccines to 2- to 5-year-olds Thursday, as opposed to the originally planned start date of Tuesday. View the health department's Facebook page, facebook.com/kankakeehealth, for more updated information.
KANKAKEE — Kankakee County entered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high community level of COVID-19 at the end of last week.
“We’re seeing an average of 40-plus [cases] a day for the last almost three weeks,” Kankakee County health administrator John Bevis said Friday.
Masks are now “strongly recommended” in indoor public places by the Kankakee County Health Department, as are staying home and getting tested if one becomes sick.
The CDC bases community levels on weekly metrics of a county’s COVID case rate, new hospitalizations per 100,000 people and the percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19, which are updated on Thursdays.
According to CDC data reported Thursday, Kankakee County has a case rate of 243.03 per 100,000, 11.7 new hospitalizations per 100,000 and 2.7 percent of staffed inpatient beds used by COVID patients.
These metrics are not close to the rates they rose to in the county’s two previous COVID peaks during winter, but they are the highest seen in a few months. Also, cases may be underreported because more people are doing at-home testing or are not testing at all.
“What appears to be triggering Kankakee into that high category right now, it’s definitely our number of cases per 100,000 …” Bevis said. “But we also think we may be triggering a little bit with patients in the hospital.”
As of June 14, Riverside Healthcare reported nine of its inpatients tested positive for COVID-19, two of whom are unvaccinated and seven who received the initial vaccination round and are overdue for a booster. Two of the inpatients were in the ICU, and one is on a ventilator.
There are currently 15 COVID outbreaks in group homes or long-term care facilities in the county that are working with the health department on contact tracing, Bevis said, including the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Manteno.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday reported 22 staff and residents at the veterans’ home tested positive for COVID-19 and one asymptomatic resident died a few hours after testing positive and receiving a booster. Since Wednesday, one resident and six staff members have tested positive, according to a written notification from the facility posted Friday.
“So it’s not all just long-term care facilities that are causing the increase in numbers,” Bevis said. “It’s a community-wide spread of transmission of COVID.”
Will County also occupies the high community level. Ford, Grundy, Livingston and Iroquois counties are in the medium level as of Friday.
Bevis said the health department has recently begun to receive data from the state’s wastewater testing program that analyzes samples for evidence of COVID-19 from different waste treatment systems around the state, including in Kankakee County. This is another method of tracking the spread of the virus and its prevalence in communities.
“We are able to see that in early May, we began to see higher levels of COVID that was being shed into the wastewater of Kankakee County and that correlates with the rise in cases at the time we were beginning to see and continue to see now,” Bevis said.
Vaccine available for kids younger than 5
Kids as young as six months now can get vaccinated as Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines for use in children younger than 5 years old were approved Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended for the age group Saturday by the CDC.
Though Pfizer’s vaccine has a higher efficacy level than Moderna, both vaccines were shown in studies to produce a strong immune response in young children.
“It will definitely help improve more people being protected against, you know, serious illness or aspects if they’re immunocompromised or have comorbidities,” Bevis said about children in this age group becoming vaccinated.
“Obviously, the more people that are vaccinated and/or have had COVID and developed the antibodies will help reduce the ultimate spread.”
The Moderna vaccine requires two shots, each about a fourth of an adult dose, during a period of four weeks with the option of a third later for children with immune conditions. Pfizer’s vaccine is three doses one-tenth of the size of an adult dose; the first two are given three weeks apart and the final dose is administered two months later.
The Kankakee County Health Department received doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday but was closed in observation of Juneteenth.
It will begin offering the first dose of Moderna to 2- to 5-year-olds Thursday during its usual walk-in clinic from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A parent or guardian of a child must be present for vaccination.
Bevis expects the health department will add Pfizer’s vaccine for young children to its stock as well.
“We’ll see what kind of numbers we’re looking at but we plan to look for a Saturday in the very near future to help accommodate people’s schedules,” Bevis said.
“We may extend our hours in the evening longer than just to 4:30 p.m. so that we can accommodate working parents.”
Some pharmacies and groceries likely won’t be providing vaccines for this young pediatric group, Bevis said, because of the care and time some kids require when getting a shot.
“It would create quite a chaotic scene I guess and some of the facilities are small,” he said.
Hospitals, doctor’s offices and the health department will be administering the vaccine.