8 COVID-related deaths reported in September | Coronavirus
Although the region’s positivity rate has declined, eight more COVID-related deaths have been recorded so far this month.
Kankakee County topped 17,000 for the total number of COVID-19 cases over the weekend, Kankakee County Health Department Administrator John Bevis told county officials at Tuesday’s County Council Executive Committee meeting.
The county has now recorded 17,053 cases and 251 deaths since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The positivity rate in Region 7, which includes Kankakee and Will counties, is now 4.4%. Kankakee County’s rate is 6.1%, down just 0.1% from August. Will County was at 4 percent, down 0.3 percent from August.
“Kankakee remains pretty stable with the number of cases, so you can now see that we’re the ones driving the bus over Will County in terms of numbers for our positivity rate,” Bevis said.
The county administered 90,618 vaccines, including 45,930 fully vaccinated for a rate of 41.76%. Bevis said the Centers for Disease & Prevention website had 46% fully vaccinated in Kankakee County because it is based on the population distribution in the most recent census. The CDC takes into account those who are not eligible for vaccination.
“It’s a little better than 41, but it’s still low,” he said.
Of those fully vaccinated, 42 percent are white, 30 percent African-American, and 36 percent Hispanic.
“We are trying to get more education in these areas to increase vaccination rates,” Bevis said. “We’re stuck in the mud right now.”
He attributes this to the prevalence of misinformation.
“A lot of people take their information off social media instead of listening to the health department, hospitals, and CDC, so we’re fighting with that,” he said. “We are trying to educate the best we can.”
County board member John Fetherling asked Bevis if the health department can distribute vitamins to people who have clearly decided not to get the shot, so they can stay healthy.
Bevis said the health ministry does not have the resources to do so, but he does provide a lot of nutritional food information on his website.
“Information on how to stay healthy is available just as much as information on how to get vaccinated and how to prevent COVID,” Bevis said. “So again, it comes down to a personal choice. And as long as it’s not a requirement, I can’t force you.
Board member Steven Hunter asked Bevis how he responds to those in the public who say not getting the shot is a personal choice, despite evidence of the growing number of cases and deaths.
Bevis prefaced his response by saying that of the 35 full-time and 10 contract employees in the health department, all but seven are vaccinated.
He went on to say that, like those hold-backs on his staff, “people have a choice.” Although public health officials tell residents that the virus is killing people and making others very sick, it is not necessarily mandatory or required, so no action can be forced, he said.
Bevis said that although he does not have data available on the vaccine status of any of the county’s 251 deaths, he said statistics show that 97% to 98% of those who die from COVID are not vaccinated.
“It tells me the vaccine is doing what it’s supposed to do,” Bevis said. “If any people want to try and engage in risky behaviors like not wearing their masks and asking our kids not to, and I’m not going to dispute that someone wants to stand up and ask how many children died as proof of not wearing masks at school.
“They always get it,” he said of the transmission of the virus. “They can still pass it on to you if you’re a grandparent, their mom or dad, and you can get sick and die. That’s the point.
“How many children do we have to sacrifice before it becomes important? And then how many deaths are not important enough to worry about where we are from a month ago to this month? These eight deaths have individuals and families linked to those last month who I’m sure if they weren’t vaccinated they might regret those decisions.
“It’s not my job to stay here and say, ‘I told you so,'” he said. “It’s my job to just say, ‘If you want the vaccine now, we’ve got it. “”