DuPage County declaring disaster in wake of first confirmed COVID-19 case

  • DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, left, and county health department Executive Director Karen Ayala, discussed the county's response to the coronavirus, during a news conference Sunday in Wheaton.

      DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, left, and county health department Executive Director Karen Ayala, discussed the county's response to the coronavirus, during a news conference Sunday in Wheaton. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 3/15/2020 12:10 PM

In the wake of the first confirmed COVID-19 infection in DuPage County, county board Chairman Dan Cronin is signing a disaster proclamation for the entire county, effective Monday.

"This disaster proclamation is critical, as it puts our emergency operation plan into play for everyone here in DuPage County," Cronin said Sunday during a news conference at the Linda A. Kurzawa Community Center in Wheaton.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We are taking every possible action to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our communities," he added.

The declaration, which follows similar measures in Cook and McHenry counties, comes one day after state health officials announced the county's first confirmed coronavirus case.

Officials said infected person is a woman in her 60s who had been living at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook. She has been hospitalized and is listed in stable condition.

Ron Nunziato, CEO of Extended Care LLC, the consulting company working with Chateau, said the facility is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the county health department.

"As always, our residents' health, safety and well-being is our highest priority," he said. "We anticipated it wasn't if, it was when, a resident would become affected."

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He said the center previously implemented increased infection prevention practices and strategies, including symptom screening of staff and residents, enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfection, and visitor screening and restrictions.

"We believe that because of the proactive approach to this crisis, we were able to identify this quickly," Nunziato added.

The center is working with state and county health authorities to promptly identify and monitor people who have had recent contact with the resident, he said.

Karen Ayala, executive director of the DuPage County Health Department, said the agency has been monitoring COVID-19 since late January.

"We expected to see cases here," she said. "We have been talking about the eventuality of what happened yesterday, and we are absolutely not surprised nor are we panicked with this news."

The department has worked closely with schools, community organizations and health care providers to highlight prevention steps, including washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home while sick, Ayala said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the meantime, Cronin said the county's health department and office of homeland security and emergency management are available to help local leaders coordinate municipal responses.

As part of the response, Cronin said, Comcast has pledged to make hi-speed data service available for 60 days to low-income families who do not have the company's internet service in their homes.

Comcast also has opened its Wi-Fi access points across DuPage County for subscribers and nonsubscribers at thousands of points throughout the county. The company will not disconnect service or charge late fees during this time, Cronin said.

Those looking to help can visit givingdupage.org for volunteer opportunities, he added.

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