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A look back: September 2020 edition

It was good while it lasted. 

In early June, mask requirements for those fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 were relaxed and local residents were enjoying seeing their neighbors smiles for the first time in more than a year.

The feeling of liberation was welcome, but of course the pandemic was not and is not over. 

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that everyone wear masks in indoor public settings, even those who are fully vaccinated. 

The state of Illinois, Cook County and the village of Homewood quickly followed suit.

Homewood officials announced on Friday, July 30, that effective immediately masks would be required for everyone entering municipal buildings, including village hall, the public works building on Ashland Avenue, the police department and the fire department.

“The village continues to follow recommended protocols from the CDC and the IDPH closely and has contingency protocols in place to help protect our community and village staff,” officials said in the village’s weekly email newsletter.  

Flossmoor also has long adhered closely to state and Cook County pandemic guidance but had not posted a announcement specifically addresssing the new mask rule as of Sunday.

The step to masking was triggered when Cook County moved into the “substantial” transmission level of the CDC’s four-level infection monitoring system. In its new mask recommendation, the CDC said the indoor requirement should be imposed in any area with substantial or high transmission rates. 

Substantial transmission is 50 to 100 cases per 100,000, or a positivity rate between 8% and 10%. As of Friday, Cook County was at 56.75 cases per 100,000 people. The positivity rate was only 2.93%, but the CDC determines the level of transmission by the highest measure. 

Cook County is among 18% of U.S. counties at the substantial transmission level, but 58% were in the “high” category.

The recent spike in infections nationwide and locally has been attributed to the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, which has been found to be much more infectious than the original virus and often causes more serious disease. It also has reportedly been making younger people seriously ill. The original virus was more prevalent in older people. 

Vaccines have proven to be effective at keeping people safe from the Delta variant. The surge in infections is almost exclusively among unvaccinated people. 

In explaining its reason for including vaccinated people in the mask recommendation, the CDC said there is evidence that the Delta variant can be spread by vaccinated people who become infected, a rare occurrence called “breakthrough” cases.

The surge has prompted governments to renew campaigns urging residents to get the shot, which is considered the most effective way to reverse the surge.

In Illinois, vaccination rates peaked in mid-April, when for three days, the seven-day rolling average topped 130,000 doses given per day. For the week ending Friday, the average was 22,064.

Within Illinois, 74% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 58% are fully vaccinated. But the virus does not respect political boundaries. Downstate counties adjacent to Missouri, where the surge has been even more severe, have had higher rates of infection.

H-F is in a similar situation. Vaccination rates in both villages are good. Flossmoor has the highest rate of any community in the immediate area, with 58.2% of the population fully vaccinated and 70% with at least one dose. Olympia Fields is next, with 55% fully vaccinated, followed by Homewood with 53.8% fully vaccinated.

Other communities have full vaccinate rates ranging from nearly 41% in Thornton and Glenwood, 32.1% in East Hazel Crest and 33.4% in Chicago Heights.

Although the mass vaccination sites in the area have closed, there are still county, pharmacy and pop-up vaccination opportunities.

Pop-up vaccine events
Tuesday, Aug. 3

  • 4 to 6:45 p.m.
    Richton Park National Night Out
    Poplar Ave. & Rockingham Rd., Richton Park
  • 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
    National Night Out -Burnham Community Center, S. Marquette Ave & 145th St., Burnham.
  • 2 to 6 p.m.
    Harvey Police Dept. – National Night Out
    15230 Broadway, Harvey.

Wednesday, Aug. 4

  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Thorn Creek Greenway with Forest Preserve of Cook County, E. 170th St. & Vollbrecht Road,  South Holland.

Friday, Aug. 6

  • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
    Homewood Science Center, 18022 Dixie Highway, Homewood
    No appointment needed for first or second Pfizer dose. Open to anyone 12 and up. A parent or guardian must accompany minors. 
  • 9 a.m. to noon
    Glory of Divinity Fellowship Organization, 70 Nugent St., Glenwood.

Ongoing vaccine sites

  • Cottage Grove Health Center, 1645 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Ford Heights.
    Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Robbins Health Center
    13450 S. Kedzie Ave. Robbins.
    Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.

Vaccines are free to all Cook County residents regardless of insurance or immigration status.

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