Coronavirus

Coronavirus

KANKAKEE — The county’s seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 test positivity has risen from 12.4 percent on Dec. 25 to 18.2 percent as of Jan. 1, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Kankakee County Health Department reported 1,792 new cases and 20 deaths have occurred since Dec. 28. There have been 23,761 total confirmed COVID cases.

“Definitely the numbers are continuing to spike upward,” Kankakee County Health Department administrator John Bevis said.

He said the positivity rate was nearing the county’s peak in the November 2020 surge, when it was around 22 percent.

Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties in Illinois, was at 21.2 percent positivity on Jan. 1. COVID case numbers are increasing across the state and country as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads, though Bevis said he is unsure how present omicron is locally.

IDPH reported 6,294 people were hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 as of Sunday, which is the highest rate since the pandemic began. Gov. JB Pritzker spoke on Monday to warn about the strain hospitals are facing.

There were 43 new COVID hospitalizations in the county in the week ending in Dec. 28, according to the CDC’s COVID data tracker. The region’s ICU availability is now at 4 percent.

“Most of these [positive] are still individuals that are either unvaccinated or were vaccinated but hadn’t received boosters,” Bevis said. “And the current scientific data is indicating that if people have received their initial shot series but haven’t been boostered, then over a period of time the efficacy of the vaccine that they received begins to diminish.”

He explained that fading efficacy over time means more fully vaccinated people are testing COVID positive than previously, but the majority of those hospitalized and in the ICU with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. According to the state, about 85 percent of those hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

The Kankakee County Coroner’s Office reported 44 COVID deaths in December 2021, the highest monthly total since November 2020, and seven so far in January. In December, 31 of the 44 who died were unvaccinated, 12 were vaccinated and one was unknown, according to the coroner’s office. One person was reported vaccinated out of the January deaths. In total, about 70 percent of the deaths were in unvaccinated people.

The office decided to start tracking these numbers at the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year (in December) and plans to continue to tally the year’s totals.

The health department is continuing to provide vaccination clinics of all dose types on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which have seen steady but not overwhelming traffic, Bevis said.

“We strongly encourage anyone who has been vaccinated but maybe didn’t finish their series or hasn’t been boosted, do not wait any longer to get boosted because that can help and if you do get COVID, it could help reduce your symptoms,” Bevis said.

The county is now 47.06 percent vaccinated, according to IDPH. About 37 percent of fully vaccinated residents have received a booster dose, the CDC reported.

In addition to vaccination, Bevis advised residents to keep up precautions like wearing masks, washing hands often, social distancing, and not reporting to work and getting tested if they feel sick to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

COVID tests continue to have limited supply.

“This pandemic is a public health issue. It’s not a political one,” Bevis said. “This is not picking on one side or the other. It’s impacting everybody. And if people would just do what they need to do to protect themselves and their loved ones, we can help make this go away faster rather than slower.”

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Meredith Melland earned a BA in journalism from DePaul University, where she worked as a web developer and editor for 14 East, DePaul's online student magazine. She has interned for Chicago magazine and WGN. Her email is mmelland@daily-journal.com.