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Daily Journal
     April 2, 2020      #38-93 KDJ

Kankakee Co. infection rate third highest in

By Lee Provost

KANKAKEE — Kankakee County would rather not be one of the leaders in the state when it comes to this ranking, but it has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the state.

Kankakee County’s infection rate is 5.18 positive cases per 10,000 residents. The county, according to the latest figures released Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health, has 57 positive coronavirus cases.

However, based on the county’s population of just under 110,000 residents, as of the 2017 population figures, Kankakee County trails only Cook County and northern Illinois’ Lake County as the state’s highest infection rates.

Cook County, which has 5,152 positive cases, has an infection rate of 9.90 per 10,000 residents. Lake County has an infection rate of 6.78.

As a state, the Illinois infection rate is 5.49. There are 6,980 COVID-19 positive cases in Illinois. There are now 141 deaths attributed to the illness.

Kankakee County Health Department leader John Bevis said population density is a key factor in a county’s infection rate. He also noted long-term care residential facilities such as Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee and the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Manteno also play a role as cases can quickly multiply in those areas.

“The more population you have, the more agencies like these you have,” Bevis said. “Those are factors which could help explain why our rate is high. But I have not taken a deep look yet into these numbers.”

Dr. Keith Moss, chief medical officer at Riverside Medical Center, concurred Wednesday with Bevis’ sentiment on long-term facilities being major drivers of the county’s rate. A residential and training center for people who have an intellectual disability, Shapiro accounts for 12 of the county’s confirmed cases.

“We’ve seen no other [case] clusters other than Shapiro,” Moss said. “Thank goodness the numbers are still small. Our suspicion is the breakout at Shapiro is driving the number,” Moss said.

“We’re all doing a lot of prep work. We’re doing planning. We’re trying to be ready for anything that comes our way.”

Counties with five, six or even seven times the population as Kankakee County are not seeing these infection rates.

Will County, for example, which has a population base of just under 700,000 people, has an infection rate of 4.65 positive test results for every 10,000. DuPage County, with just over 930,000 residents, has an infection rate of 4.21.

Kankakee Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said he has a clear idea as to why the county numbers are high. He said one needs to only drive through the metro area to see what is taking place.

“I see people doing exactly what they shouldn’t be doing. I see people sitting around picnic tables in park talking, people sitting around bon fires, people together fishing,” he said.

“I don’t know if people actually understand what is going on. This infection will go on as long as we don’t take it seriously. I see people who aren’t taking this for what it is,” he said. “... This scares the living daylights out of me. This could turn out to be a lost year if as a county don’t take this seriously.

“I’m asking people to think about others, not just themselves.”

Wheeler said his growing fear is a situation that could be dealt with in a month or two, could drag throughout the year if the public does not take this issue as a public health crisis.

“If we don’t stop it now, who knows when this will die down,” he said.

The Kankakee Valley Park District this week began covering its basketball hoops to discourage people from gathering in parks.

“It was our thought that if social distancing could be observed, we wouldn’t do this. But we were getting too many reports that that wasn’t happening,” park district executive director Dayna Heitz said late Wednesday.

Heitz said it will take a couple days but all park district basketball hoops will be capped. She said enclosed tennis courts will be locked and open tennis courts will have the nets removed.

“It’s the old problem of one person ruining it for everyone, but something had to be done,” she said. She noted Kankakee police were reporting this concern. She added that the parks will be monitored by police.

“What can we do? This is a huge society issue, a huge health issue,” she said.

At Riverside, Dr. Moss said, “We’re all doing a lot of prep work. We’re doing planning. We’re trying to be ready for anything that comes our way.”

Infection rates

A look at infection rates of Kankakee and surrounding counties. Rate is measured per 10,000 residents.

Kankakee County - 5.18

Will County - 4.65

Livingston County - 1.78

Ford County - 0.76

Iroquois County - 0.72

State - 5.49

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

By the numbers


Number of new confirmed cases on Wednesday. The new cases are two men in their 50s and 70s and two women, both in their 60s.


Total number of cases in Kankakee County


Number of new known cases in Illinois on Wednesday


State's total known statewide case count as of Wednesday


Number of coronavirus-related deaths in Illinois. Illinois' total death count is 141.

Playgrounds closed, trails remain open

BOURBONNAIS — Bourbonnais Township Park District announced Tuesday that all playgrounds are now closed at Perry Farm Park, Diamond Point Park, Recreation Station and Willowhaven Park. All public restrooms will also remain closed. 

The closure is in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's "stay at home" order mandating that all places of public amusement, which include playgrounds, be closed to the public in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running or biking are still allowed in all BTPD parks as long as individuals comply with social distancing guidelines. 

“We encourage our residents to enjoy our trails,” said Hollice Clark, BPTD's executive director. “The fresh air and being out in nature is grounding and can assist with mental health. But we have to require social distancing and will be monitoring our parks. We want to keep our community safe and healthy.”

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