WAUKEGAN, IL — The Lake County Health Department reported 20 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing to 135 the number of county residents testing positive for the COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Health department data shows about half of the county's coronavirus cases are clustered in the North Shore communities of Deerfield, Highland Park, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.
Six of the county's confirmed COVID-19 cases are associated with Lake County long-term care facilities, according to the department. Three staff members at a Lincolnshire facility and three residents of a Lake Zurich facility have tested positive for the virus.
"Protecting our most vulnerable residents is something we take very seriously, and our Communicable Disease team is working closely with these facilities to monitor the health of staff and residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19," Executive Director Mark Pfister said in a release.
"In addition to restricting outside visitors to the facilities, appropriate infection control measures are being taken, including checking the temperatures and symptoms of all staff and residents twice per shift," Pfister said. "If a resident shows symptoms, they are appropriately isolated, and extra precautions are taken."
Coronavirus infections have also been reported at long-term care facilities in DuPage County, where there were 46 confirmed COVID-19 cases at Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook, and in Cook County, where at least three residents of the Three Crowns Park senior community in Evanston have tested positive. One of them, a 93-year-old man, has died.
Also Wednesday, the Lake County Health Department released a map of all coronavirus cases in the county broken down by municipalities.
"Theis not necessarily reflective of the actual distribution of cases in our county. People that live in the communities with the higher rate of cases are not, really, at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general population," Patti Corn, emergency response coordinator for the Lake County Health Department, explained on a conference call Thursday.
According to the data, somewhere between 44 percent and 57 percent of confirmed cases in county are in four North Shore towns.
The highest rate of infections was in Lake Forest, where 20 to 24 people had contracted COVID-19, equating to 10.23 cases per 10,000 residents.
Next highest was Deerfield, where there were 15 to 19 confirmed coronavirus cases for a rate of 9.68 per 10,000 people.
Lake Bluff had five to 9 cases for a rate of 8.9 per 10,000 and Highland Park had 20 to 24 cases, an infection rate of 7.76 per 10,000.
"There are many reasons that one community may have a higher number of positive cases," Corn said. "People who live in those communities may have greater access to testing than people who live in other areas of the county. People who live in those communities may also have traveled more to areas where there's a higher prevalence of COVID-19 that was occurring before Illinois was issued the stay-at-home order by our governor."
The only other municipalities with more than four cases of COVID-19 were Lake Zurich and Waukegan, which each had five to nine cases, and Libertyville, which had 10 to 14 cases, according to the Lake County Health Department coronavirus map.
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Public health officials emphasized the critical need for preventative measures including social distancing — staying home as much as possible and keeping a distance of six feet from others — good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes and for those who thing they might be sick to remain home.
Residents who develop symptoms of a possible coronavirus infection, such as a cough, shortness of breath or a fever, should contact a doctor and keep as much physical distance from members of the household as possible.
Health officials emphasized not to walk into a healthcare facility or hospital without calling ahead. If a doctor believes you meet the requirements for testing, patients can be referred to a COVID-19 testing site.
Doctors then report test results to local health departments. In the case of a positive result, the health department's communicable disease team attempts to track down the patient's recent contacts and notifies employers, educational institutions and others who are found to have been in close contact with the person with coronavirus.
Lake County residents without a primary care provider in need of a test may contact the health department and community health center at 847-377-8800 to schedule an appointment. People who test positive and are unable to self-isolate on their own were asked to call the health department's main line at 847-377-8000 to connect with local resources.
More information on the COVID-19 outbreak is available from the coronavirus websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Lake County Health Department.