KANKAKEE — Though most schools and restaurants are open, over 17 percent of the population is vaccinated and the weather is warming up, Kankakee County is not yet out of COVID-19’s grip.

Cases, positive test results and hospitalizations have been on the rise since late March in Kankakee County, Region 7 and the state overall.

Kankakee County’s case rate per 100,000 people increased from 85 on March 20 to 203 on April 10, according to public data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

There have been 25 days of COVID-19 patient increases in the last 30 days in Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties.

Kankakee County has had 13,435 total confirmed COVID-19 cases and 196 deaths as of Friday, according to data updated by IDPH.

“Although the numbers have been going up, they are not going up to the numbers we saw in November and December,” said Kankakee County Health Administrator John Bevis.

In last November’s surge, the county had at least 3,000 new positive cases and averaged 200 cases per day.

He said there could be increased virus transfers through resumed school activities and sports, people getting out more in the warm weather and some letting their guard down and not following social distancing or mask guidelines.

“We still need to be protecting ourselves, our neighbors and our fellow loved ones with social-distancing requirements,” Bevis said.

Many schools recently had spring break around Easter, April 4.

Bradley Central officials announced Friday that six students and one staff member tested positive after its spring break and 94 students have been quarantined due to being close contacts.

All Bradley Central students will return to full remote learning from April 19-30. All sports and extracurricular activities will be canceled during this time.

Bevis said the county has had some cases of COVID-19 variants, thought to be more contagious than the main strain, that have been investigated.

At least five “breakthrough cases,” or positive COVID-19 cases found in fully vaccinated individuals, have been discovered through contact tracing out of 19,243 fully vaccinated people.

Riverside Healthcare currently has 19 COVID-19 patients, according to CEO and President Phil Kambic.

“We are constantly monitoring the case numbers as well as equipment and bed availability so we are not caught off guard,” Kambic said.

AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital had one COVID-19 positive patient and an additional patient awaiting a test result as of Thursday.

“In the past three months, we had a period with no COVID-19 patients, then peaked at seven patients and are now back down to an average of two per day for the past week,” said Dr. Kalisha Hill, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Neither Hill nor Kambic are worried about hitting capacity limits.

“Currently, we have plenty of capacity to care for our community, and we don’t see that changing drastically soon,” Hill said.

New hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness, hospitalized COVID-19 patients and daily cases have been trending upward across Illinois since mid-March, according to IDPH.

Last week, Kankakee County was one of 11 counties flagged as having warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk by IDPH. This week, the county is in the blue, indicating that it is experiencing overall stable COVID-19 metrics, but 31 counties are now flagged.

“In the last week, we seem to have plateaued,” Bevis said.

However, he is still concerned that the metrics might increase again and create a third surge that will spark more mandatory lockdowns and closures.

“We have to push through this,” he said. “We haven’t reached herd immunity yet, there are still a lot of people that need to be vaccinated.”

Bevis noted that the vaccines cannot guarantee that the recipient will not contract or spread COVID-19, but they can majorly reduce the likelihood and prevent serious illness and death should the recipient contract the virus.

“We have more and more vaccine available in the county, including at Riverside, so those who want it should have no trouble getting it,” Kambic said.

Three mass vaccination clinics with the Illinois National Guard will be held in Kankakee this week. Riverside, the health department and local pharmacies will continue to offer vaccinations as well.

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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.