DeKalb County health officials support state reopen plan as fully vaccinated approaches 40%

DeKALB - As of Wednesday, DeKalb County reports more than 38%, or nearly 40,000 people out of the 104,000 countywide population, are fully vaccinated against the virus. With that in mind, local health officials said they support the plan to reopen.

“Based on the steady case decreases we are seeing across the state, and in our county, and with the number of those vaccinated continuing to rise, the Health Department supports the guidelines for reopening this Friday,” said Lisa Gonzalez, public health administrator with the DeKalb County Health Department. “As the state is set to fully re-open this Friday, data will continue to be a factor in any safety mitigations moving forward.”

Under Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, the state will enter what’s known as Phase 5 on Friday, meaning a full reopen with no limitations on indoor or outdoor crowd capacity for the first time since the pandemic began. It’s due to the statewide trends of lower virus cases and hospitalizations amid the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine. Guidance states that those who are not vaccinated will be asked to wear masks when inside and around others, while those who’ve received the vaccine won’t require it. Businesses and municipalities will be able to decide what masking requirements to uphold on their own.

Case counts across the county, in line with the state, are significantly down, and most days report new virus totals in the single-digits. The countywide positivity rate as of Wednesday is down to 1.8%, and the county reported four new cases, mostly in those who aren’t vaccinated.

“Trends we are seeing are largely individuals that are close contacts to cases, and therefore frequently runs through a household,” said Stacia Runge, communicable disease coordinator with the health department. The majority of those individuals are unvaccinated.”

At the end of May, health officials announced the county health department was shifting to a new vaccine model amid a drop in vaccine demand locally, and will order doses as needed and offer walk-in appointments at the health department building daily in lieu of the mass vaccination sites at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center.

Since that time, Gonzalez said they’ve tracked a “steady number of people” of varying ages stopping by for a vaccine. She stressed that as people return to a lifestyle more in tune with the pre-pandemic days, residents should continue to be mindful of best practices and public health guidelines.

“It’s important that prevention strategies are still followed according to CDC and IDPH guidelines, including proper handwashing and masking if you are not fully vaccinated in public and crowded settings when indoors,” Gonzalez said.

Kelsey Rettke

Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.