Will County Health Department: Follow these guidelines for safe Thanksgiving food prep

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, the Will County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division wanted to remind residents about food safety at the holidays.

Each year, hundreds of people in Illinois become ill and some are hospitalized because food they ate at a holiday meal was handled or prepared in an unsafe way.

Raw turkey and its juices can be contaminated with germs that can make your family sick. Follow these simple food safety tips to protect your family and make sure you’re not serving up a foodborne illness this holiday season. A full list of food safety tips can be found at cdc.gov/foodsafety.

Food prep safety

Thaw Safely – There’s three suggested ways from the CDC to thaw your turkey.

1. Refrigerator - Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator by allowing about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. A thawed turkey in the refrigerator can remain in the refrigerator once its been thawed for 1-2 days before cooking.

2. Cold Water - Submerge the turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey. A turkey thawed in cold water must be cooked immediately after thawing.

3. Microwave – Follow the microwave manufacturer’s instructions for thawing your turkey. A turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately after thawing.

Clean: Clean your hands, surfaces and utensils with soap and water before cooking.

Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between foods that are ready to eat, and raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

Cook: Even if your turkey has a pop-up timer, use a food thermometer to check the temperature. You cannot tell just by looking at the color and texture if food is fully cooked. Turkey should be cooked to 165° F. Check the temperature of a turkey by inserting a food thermometer into three places: the thickest part of the breast, where body and thigh join (aiming toward the thigh), where body and wing join (aiming towards the wing).

If you stuffed your turkey, insert a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing to ensure it reaches 165°F. Remember to let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing and carving the meat. This will let the stuffing cook a little longer and make the turkey easier to carve.

Chill: Do not leave foods at room temperature for more than two hours. After you are done eating, divide the remaining food into small containers and either refrigerate or freeze. Leftovers are safe in the refrigerator for up to four days. Refrigerate cooked foods that are not served immediately. If food is left unrefrigerated longer than two hours, the chance of bacterial growth increases.

Open enrollment is underway

Do you need health insurance? Open Enrollment at the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance marketplace is officially open! Last year in Illinois, more than 342,000 ACA Marketplace plans were selected during Open Enrollment. According to HealthCare.gov, four out of five consumers can continue to find a plan for $10 or less a month.

The Marketplace Open Enrollment Period on HealthCare.gov generally runs until Jan. 15. Consumers who enroll by midnight on Dec. 15 can get full-year coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2024.

Jan. 15, 2024 is a federal holiday. Accordingly, consumers will have until midnight Tuesday, Jan. 16 to enroll in coverage.

Consumers who enroll after Dec. 15 but before the deadline in January will have coverage that starts Feb. 1, 2024. After the January deadline for Open Enrollment, consumers can only purchase insurance coverage on the ACA Marketplace if they have a qualifying life event, including losing job-based coverage, getting married, having a child, adopting a child, or moving.

If you need help or have questions, the Will County Community Health Center has certified application counselors who can answer questions and help you navigate the process. Our application counselors can be reached by calling 815-774-6090.

Flu, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines available

The number of upper respiratory illnesses caused by flu, COVID-19 and RSV are all expected to increase over the next few months. Make sure you’re protecting yourself by staying up-to-date on your vaccinations. The Will County Health Department and Community Health Center are both able to provide vaccinations.

The Will County Community Health Center is offering COVID-19 vaccines at its location at 1106 Neal Ave. in Joliet. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is being offered at the Will County Community Health Center to any patient 6 months or older with Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance as well as anyone uninsured. You do not have to be an existing patient at the Community Health Center, but registration will be required. For more information, please call the Community Health Center at 815-727-8670.

The Will County Health Department (WCHD) offers vaccinations through its immunization clinic at the main branch office in Joliet, 501 Ella Ave., and it’s two branch offices in Monee, 5601 W. Monee-Manhattan Road, and Bolingbrook, 323 Quadrangle Drive.

Flu Vaccines are available at all three locations. The RSV vaccine is available for adults 60 years of age and over and pregnant women. A written doctor’s order is required to receive the RSV vaccine. Medicare Part D and Medicaid are accepted for RSV vaccine for persons 60 years old and older.

COVID-19 vaccines through our WCHD immunization clinic are available to the following groups at the listed locations.

COVID-19 vaccines in Joliet:

· uninsured and underinsured adults (Moderna, Pfizer)

· uninsured and underinsured children and children with Medicaid (Moderna, Pfizer)

· Adults with Medicaid, Medicare and BCBS PPO (Novavax)

COVID-19 vaccines in Monee and Bolingbrook:

· uninsured and underinsured adults (Moderna)

· uninsured and underinsured children and children with Medicaid (Moderna)

· Adults with Medicaid, Medicare and BCBS PPO (Novavax)

Appointments are strongly encouraged. Call 815-740-8143 to schedule an appointment.