Kane County health director chides businesses, people shunning COVID-19 precautions
Kane County's top public health official issued a warning Wednesday to local business owners, schools and residents failing to take precautions against spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Barb Jeffers, the public health department executive director, said the county's emergency declaration expands her ability to address situations that may intensify the outbreak. She told a county board committee her office is seeing outbreaks at nursing homes and manufacturing businesses, and receiving complaints from employees of local businesses.
"We get a lot of calls about businesses that are allowing people that are symptomatic to come to work," Jeffers said. "We work with the business owners to make sure they are mitigating appropriately, having people get tested and not allowing those people to work.
"It is the responsibility of the employer to protect their employees. I have the authority to shut down these businesses. That's a last option. To date, we haven't done that. That doesn't mean we won't do it."
Jeffers said she's also heard from school officials wanting to continue with graduation ceremonies. And board members reported concerns about people having barbecues while hosting visitors.
"I get there are significant milestones that are going to be missed," Jeffers said. "Having graduation and potentially having thousands of people come down with the virus, even having a potential death -- is it really worth it?"
If people aren't being conservative, the virus is "going to explode," Jeffers warned. She said every encounter increases the probability of being exposed to someone who has the virus.
"This is a really big deal," she said. "We don't want to incite fear, but we want people to be responsible."
Jeffers encouraged anyone experiencing a persistent cough, fever or trouble breathing to get tested, and she announced new, free local testing options.
The Chicago Premium Outlet mall in Aurora is now a site for testing paid for by the federal government. The VNA Center in Aurora is also offering more test sites. And the Greater Elgin Family Care Center began offering tests Tuesday.
Jeffers said there are private testing options that ask people to pay or have insurance to get a test. She said it's not clear what types of tests private outlets are offering or how reliable they are.
There was a rapid test developed by Abbott Labs that most hospitals abandoned because too many tests said people didn't have the virus when they actually did have it, Jeffers said.
The expanded test sites will offer tests to anyone with virus symptoms. In the past, local testing was restricted to people older than 65, those with chronic illnesses, and health care workers or first responders. The limitation was due to a general lack of tests.
Jeffers said there is no answer about when the outbreak will end. Even the end may not mean a return to life experienced before the virus.
"I don't think we'll have the same normal that we've had," Jeffers said. "We'll have a new normal."