Kane County Health health official Michael Isaacson can’t say for certain whether the area will see a twindemic in the coming months, the dual threat of a severe flu outbreak on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t think we fully understand how there basically was a zero flu season last year,” Isaacson, the Kane County Health Department Assistant Director for Community Health, said in speaking to area Chamber of Commerce organizations recently as part of a Zoom webinar. “I know we were all isolated and wearing masks and things like that. I’m just now talking to people who are getting sick with colds and things like that for the first time in a year and a half. Is there the potential for the flu to come on strong? I don’t know what the likelihood of that is. Is COVID going to crowd out influenza or is there going to be a twindemic, where we have both influenza and COVID? That’s a possibility, but I don’t know what the likelihood is.”
The health department continues to emphasize that getting vaccinated is the best protection against COVID-19. To date, 54.63% of Kane County’s population is fully vaccinated. Eligible residents are those 12 and older.
Isaacson said the health department has seen an increase in the number of people getting vaccinated in the face of the highly transmissible delta variant.
“A few weeks ago, we saw an uptick when the delta variant really started spreading local,” Isaacson said. “So that was good news. More people were getting vaccinated. It has slowed down a little bit.”
The county on the average is administrating about 1,000 shots a day.
“We’re getting there, but it’s taking time,” he said. “There’s a lot more people out there that we would like to see get vaccinated who haven’t had a shot yet.”
County officials are now working to get more residents vaccinated as quickly as possible. Those people who are not vaccinated are more likely to end up in the hospital, Isaacson said.
As he noted, Kane County’s vaccine rates are “kind of middle of the pack” for the Chicagoland area. He said the vaccine rates for the Chicagoland area are “quite good” compared to most of the country.
To prevent further spread, he is encouraging residents to comply with the current state mandate to wear a mask indoors in public places, regardless of vaccination status. Isaacson was asked whether people who have contracted COVID-19 have natural immunity to the virus. He said the verdict is still out.
“There’s a lot of studies going on,” he said. “There’s different studies where they’re seeing people who maybe had COVID and then were vaccinated and their protection is potentially much, much higher…The guidance right now doesn’t really give us the solid foundation to say, yes, your natural immunity that you are acquired through being sick is going to give you this long lasting protection.”
He recommended people get vaccinated, regardless of whether they previously had COVID-19.
“We know the vaccine is going to protect you,” Isaacson said. “I don’t know if you had COVID six months ago how long you’re going to be protected. We do know that out of the hundreds of millions of people who’ve been vaccinated, those aren’t the people that are showing up in our hospitals.”
Kane County also is seeing less COVID-19 hospitalizations these days. Hospitalizations decreased or remained stable 10 out of the past 10 days in the region encompassing Kane and DuPage counties. The region is down to 165 total COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
“We had something like 45 straight days where we had additional people going into the hospital every day,” he said. “This is good news that this is starting to turn.”
He is also hopeful that kids under the age of 12 will soon be able to get vaccinated following the completion of medical studies.
“When we’re able to start vaccinating those who are 11 and under, that’s going to have a massive impact on what’s happening in our schools,” Isaacson said.