KANKAKEE — New cases of COVID-19 in Kankakee County have fluctuated over the last two weeks but are dipping below the peak of the fall surge, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker indicated 285 new cases were added in the past week as of Friday, a still “high” rate of transmission but a 30 percent decrease from the previous week.

Between 22 percent and 25 percent of new cases are occurring in youth under 18, according to the Kankakee County Health Department’s two most recent updates.

Kankakee County has 17,899 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the health department as of Tuesday. Of those, 14,893 are recoveries and 2,747 remain active.

Health department administrator John Bevis remains concerned by the county’s positivity rate and the respective amount of cases within Region 7, which is comprised of Kankakee and Will counties.

“Our positivity rate has been above 6 for the past month of this current surge that we are experiencing with the delta variant,” Bevis said. “Will County’s numbers have continued to slowly decline and drop from above 6 to now 3.8.”

Kankakee County makes up less than 16 percent of Region 7’s population — there are six people in Will County for each Kankakee County resident.

“But we represent a fourth of the total cases combined,” Bevis said. “And part of that is because our vaccination rates continue to remain very low.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that Kankakee County is just under 43 percent fully vaccinated as of Friday. According to the CDC, 48.1 percent of people eligible for vaccination in the county are fully vaccinated.

When breaking the county’s population into groups by race, white people have the highest rate of vaccination at 42 percent, then Hispanics at 37 percent and Blacks at 31 percent, Bevis said.

The vaccination rate among new cases and hospitalizations is not reported widely by IDPH or the CDC. Bevis said he thinks many people deserve an answer to this question, but that it is not as important as monitoring cases and potential exposure.

“The facts and the science show that by being vaccinated, your risk of sickness or death because of COVID or delta, whether you had it before and now again, are reduced greatly because of the vaccine versus somebody who is unvaccinated,” Bevis said. “Statistically, Kankakee County’s numbers are reflecting that.”

The hospital bed availability 7-day rolling average for Region 7 hit the threshold of 20 percent on Wednesday but increased by 1 percent the following day, according to IPDH.

“I’m not hearing that we’re at capacity, or necessarily near capacity, but I have talked with hospital personnel who have indicated that there are a number of people who are in the hospital with a serious condition not because of COVID per se, itself, but because of the COVID pandemic,” Bevis said.

He said this includes people who put off seeking care during the pandemic for serious conditions that worsened.

“We are experiencing, locally, a number of schools that have outbreaks,” Bevis said. “They appear to be following IDPH’s guidelines and recommendations in regards to the masking and the social distancing, so that’s helping.”

IDPH has reported two schools, Bourbonnais Upper Grade School and Bradley West Elementary School, have had small outbreaks of five or fewer people in October. As of Friday, 15 schools have had potential exposures within the last 30 days, according to IDPH.

“But no schools at this point have reached what I would call a breaking point for them to need to make a decision on their end, as to, you know, closing down a classroom or closing the school for two weeks for a pause, like we did last year,” Bevis said.

In Kankakee School District, 77 students and 27 adults have had COVID-19 cases this school year, according to superintendent Genevra Walters’ report at the most recent school board meeting on Tuesday. Three adults and 113 students are currently in quarantine as of Tuesday.

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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