Kane County working to keep mass vaccination site open through January
Kane County officials are close to locking in leasing and utility agreements that will keep the mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Batavia open through January. But the future of the location beyond that remains in flux even as officials fretted about possible state or federal vaccine mandates fueling massive demand for the shots.
Members of the county board's public health committee received an update on the virus Wednesday showing positive cases are approaching the height of last winter's totals. Hospitalization numbers increased every day for the past month. About 70% of people in local hospitals because of COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to Michael Isaacson, the county's assistant director of community health.
Isaacson also said 35 county residents died from COVID-19 in the past two weeks. The new pace put the county on track to hit 1,000 total COVID-19 fatalities shortly after the new year.
Health officials continued to urge the public to get vaccinated, get boosted and get tested before attending indoor gatherings. In advance of holiday parties, officials said people should wear masks, practice social distancing and keep a window open. They said at-home tests are reliable when it comes to positive tests. At-home tests that show a negative result are about 50% accurate depending on when the test was taken after exposure to the virus.
About 66% of the eligible Kane County population is fully vaccinated. Isaacson said the local Hispanic community and older, white males who lean conservative in their political views tend to have the lowest vaccination rates.
Aaron Stevens, the county health department's emergency response supervisor, said social media disinformation campaigns are fueling vaccine reluctance in those populations.
"There is a narrative going on in the community that because there are people who have been vaccinated who test positive that the vaccine is not effective, which is false," Stevens said. "The vaccine is not designed to prevent people from testing positive or becoming infected. It's designed to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death, which it does very well."
To that end, the Jan. 5 and Jan. 8 upcoming clinics at the Batavia mass vaccination site will be open to eligible adults and children. State officials made a verbal promise to the county Tuesday night to help with a staffing shortage that sparked a plan to permanently close the site. The staffing help will last through January.
County officials must still finalize a lease extension for the building and an agreement with Batavia officials, who have been covering the utility costs for the site. New appointments covering the remaining Wednesday and Saturdays in January will be posted by the end of Wednesday.
County officials are anxious to extend those agreements through May. They are watching the progress of a federal vaccination mandate for employers of more than 100 people. If that trickles down to Illinois, county officials want to be prepared to handle the vaccine demand that would trigger. So far, they have not locked in a staffing plan for the mass vaccination site beyond January. The site needs 27 people qualified to administer the shots whenever it is open.