Some Kane County residents distrust COVID-19 info, want to reopen local economy

Updated 4/29/2020 7:56 PM

Based on what they perceive to be flawed data and a dearth of COVID-19 cases in the area, about 50 local residents urged a return to normalcy Tuesday night during a video chat with Kane County official.

They told county board chairman Chairman Chris Lauzen they don't trust information about the number of people who have the virus or have died.


"The data always seems very flawed," Paxton Knopsnyder said. "The testing seems to be way, way, way behind. We don't know of any testing here in northern Kane County. I know a lot of people who could have been sick from the virus, and they are not allowed to be tested. So I'm finding a lot of discrepancies. It makes me not trust anything."

Callers expressed confusion over daily stats, what's being counted as COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the level of testing in the state.

Part of the confusion stems from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that suspected, but unconfirmed, cases of the infection can be counted. States have different interpretations of that guidance. Alabama did not initially count some deaths even when patients had COVID-19 if they had other medical issues. Others, like Illinois, count only cases where a person is confirmed to have the virus. Unrelated deaths, such as those who have COVID-19 but die in a car accident, are not counted in Illinois' totals.

The CDC is tracking cases of people with other complications, such as pneumonia, to which COVID-19 patients are more susceptible. Seasonal flu casualties are tracked separately.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and Kane County Public Health Department are providing updated local data for confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. Testing is available for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even without a doctor's order. Roughly 2% of the state's population has been tested.

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The death rate from the virus is considered unclear because of the lack of testing, especially of those who are asymptomatic. Recent global estimates indicate a death rate from 0.2% to 0.5%. A 0.2% rate would be about twice as bad as seasonal flu. But some East Coast states, such as Connecticut, are reporting death rates as high as 7.6%.

The rapidly changing situation is sowing local distrust, as are incomplete views of history.

"When you look back at swine flu back in 2009, we had 60 million people infected and 15,000 died," resident Melanie Kowalski said on the Kane County chat. "We didn't go into lockdown. None of this was going on. We need to get our people back to work. We just need to get our big boy pants on and have the grown-ups in the room decide what kind of risk are we willing to accept before our economy collapses."

The 2009 swine flu (also known as H1N1) affected mainly younger, healthier people. Many local schools closed for several days because vast amounts of students were infected. More than 900 students at St. Charles East High School, for example, reported being ill. Also unlike COVID-19, scientists developed a vaccine. More than 70 million people were vaccinated by the end of February 2010.

Kane County residents on Tuesday also expressed displeasure with the quality of distance learning children receive and fears about losing jobs that may never return. Callers said officials should trust the public to be safe and responsible and reopen the economy.

"I do consider the virus to be virulent," resident Virginia Flood said. "However, I don't recognize my country anymore. I feel like I'm a prisoner in my own home."

Kane County will host two more video chats with residents, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. May 5 and May 12.

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