Kane County health officials blame 20-somethings for latest COVID-19 spike

  • Bars and restaurants were open over the summer on Route 64 in downtown St. Charles, but now they'll have limits on their hours, with no indoor service allowed.

    Bars and restaurants were open over the summer on Route 64 in downtown St. Charles, but now they'll have limits on their hours, with no indoor service allowed. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/21/2020 6:26 PM

Two months ago, Kane County public health officials called on local residents in their 20s to do a better job of taking precautions against COVID-19.

Officials feared a lack of social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing in that age group could fuel outbreaks that would cause the local economy to start shutting down again.

 

On Wednesday, health officials said they didn't listen.

"They are the ones who are driving up our positivity rate," said Barb Jeffers, executive director of the Kane County Public Health Department. "They're going to bars and hanging out. And they are a healthy group. The problem is when they come back into the community, they raise our positivity rates.

"We ask that they really look at their behaviors," she said. "We don't want our community shut down because you are having a good time."

That party is over -- at least in terms of gatherings at Kane County bars, restaurants and other social spots. A COVID-19 positivity rate that topped 8% from Oct. 15 to 17, plus an increase in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, led Gov. J.B. Pritzker to place all of Region 8 -- Kane and DuPage counties -- into resurgence mitigation protocol designed to drive down the numbers.

Starting Friday, bars, restaurants and casinos must close by 11 p.m. No indoor seating. No more than six people at an outdoor table, and no more than 25 customers at a time. No mingling of groups who aren't from the same household.

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Jeffers shared numbers with the county board's public health committee that showed health officials recorded 819 COVID-19 cases in county residents ages 20 to 29 in September. No other age group recorded more than 583 cases (people in their 40s).

"If we don't reduce our positivity rate, we will enter into the next tier of mitigation, which is even more restrictive," she said. "That affects our schools, our workplaces, and it will definitely have an economic impact on our county. Nobody wants that. We want to keep our schools open. We want to keep our businesses open."

Health officials said contact tracing has shown the COVID-19 cases they've seen at local schools stem mostly from nonschool, private sports activities. Determining specific activities has been difficult because parents often don't want to give those details to contact tracers for fear of seeing the leagues shut down.

Jeffers also told the committee her office is still investigating whether a recent rally for President Donald Trump that attracted a large crowd to the Kane County Fairgrounds played a role in the rising case numbers. So far, she said, it is inconclusive.

"The information is only as good at what's reported," Jeffers said. "Those who were at that rally, we have no one admitting they tested positive. When people aren't honest in the contact tracing, we have a very hard challenge.

"I cannot say one incident spiked our data. I'm not saying it didn't, but if you look in our state, we are all trending up. And you didn't have these rallies in all communities. When we don't mask up, and we go into any large group, it increases our positivity rate."

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