County adds six COVID-19 cases, provides update via press conference

Coronavirus

IROQUOIS COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA). — Health officials in Iroquois County reported six new COVID-19 cases Thursday, raising their total count to 84 reported cases.

A press release from the Iroquois County Public Health Department (ICPHD) listed the following new cases of the virus Thursday:

  • A male and a female individual, each under the age of 20.
  • A man in his 30s.
  • A man in his 40s.
  • A woman in her 50s.
  • A woman in her 60s.

“Of the 84 individuals with laboratory-confirmed cases, 22 have recovered and been released from isolation by the health department,” Public Health Administrator Dee Ann Schippert said at a Thursday press conference. “Six individuals as of today are hospitalized, 55 of these 84 individuals remain isolated at home. Some of those individuals are very ill even though they’re at home, while others are completely asymptomatic.

“I know we’ve discussed this in the past: this virus is manifest very differently for different people. A lot of that depends on co-morbidities or underlying health conditions. For each one of these individuals, the illness can manifest very differently.

“We also have one person included in that 84 who have tested positive that has passed away. We extend our prayers and our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and community members who are affected by that loss. Every death is a loss that’s mourned by someone.”

Schippert said no further details would be provided about their cases of the virus.

“The Illinois administrative code is very specific about counties with specific populations, and what we’re allowed to report and what we’re not allowed to report,” Schippert said. “Zip code information found on IDPH’s virtual map will only occur for small counties with as small of a population as we have, once those cases are greater than five.”

On Wednesday, the ICPHD announced 26 positive test results had been received for residents of their county. Seventeen of those cases were persons above the age of 80.

The Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) website on COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities stated that information is only updated weekly on Fridays — as of Thursday, it was only showing two cases in such facilities in Iroquois County.

When asked at the press conference whether any of those 26 cases were located in nursing home facilities, Schippert declined to answer, citing Illinois state code regarding the collection, disclosure, and confidentiality of health statistics.

She instead referred to the website for zip code level information hosted online by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“If you look at the IDPH site map, and we provide that link on all of our press releases, and you look at, go the long-term care site, you may only see two cases,” she said. “But, if you would go to the IDPH site and look at the zip codes, that will give you the answer to that question in a roundabout way without me having to tell you.”

According to data accessed Thursday from the IDPH website on zip code level COVID-19 cases, only two zip codes in Iroquois County have reported more than five cases. One of those zip code areas, 60955, covering the village of Onarga, listed only seven cases of the virus.

Map captured from the IDPH website.

However, the zip code area 60927 listed 36 cases. That zip code region is located on the northern border of Iroquois County and covers the village of Clifton (population 1,344). It’s just south of Kankakee County.

Map captured from the IDPH website.

A Google search for “nursing homes in Clifton, Illinois” shows only one result in that area: A. Merkle C. Knipprath Nursing Home. It’s also the only Medicaid-certified nursing home with the zip code ‘60927’ listed on Medicare.gov’s website for comparing nursing homes.

WCIA reached out to that facility to ask if they had any confirmed COVID-19 cases. Their administrator was not available Thursday evening.

“We’re not trying to hide statistical information, I want to make that very clear. We’re providing it, but we’re also trying to respect the privacy of the individuals who test positive, which is so important to us. I’ve worked, myself, for public health for 28 years. No one can ever say, ‘Dee Ann Schippert’ said so-and-so has chlamydia. We take, all of the staff at the Iroquois County Public Health Department, take huge pride in the fact that we do not disclose any kind of personal information. We take people’s privacy very solemnly, very reverently, we take it very seriously, and we don’t judge people. We work with the public every day. We don’t place judgment, and we don’t want to ever be in a situation where we’re putting people’s information out there so other people can place judgment on them either. It’s just something that we’re never going to do.

ICPHD Public Health Administrator Dee Ann Schippert

Schippert also said that all workers at long-term care facilities in their county were “working their tails off to try to prevent the spread of COVID in their buildings and with their residents.” She added they love the residents that they care for.

“They’re requesting extra equipment, they’re talking back and forth, sharing ideas, they’re asking for guidance all the time,” she said.

“This is still a virus that is passed from person to person. It’s going to happen, and it does not mean that long-term facility did anything wrong. Nobody’s perfect, and certainly, none of that’s intentional. Nobody wants that associated with their facility, and more than anything nobody wants a death in their facility.”

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