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COVID concerns shared at board of health: Concerns about students, schools addressed by board members


GALENA–Sandra Schleicher, Jo Daviess County public health administrator, addressed some changes that the department has made due to COVID and concerns she has about the pandemic at the board of health’s Wednesday, Dec. 2 meeting.

According to Schleicher, the health department hired another contact tracer. The new hire brings the number of workers that spend some or all of their time contact tracing at the department to six.

“We are still overwhelmed and still drowning in cases and contacts,” said Schleicher. “We are looking at one more part-time person.”

Schleicher said the department’s focus recently has been with the vaccination plan that they have to turn into the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) next week.

“It has a lot of blanks in it,” said Schleicher. “We don’t know when and we don’t know how much. It has changed a lot, even this week.”

Schleicher is also searching for a dry ice vendor for the Pfizer vaccine.

“The state says there is funding coming for vaccinations, but we haven’t seen it yet,” said Schleicher.

Schleicher also informed the board that 103 people utilized the drive-through testing site at Midwest Medical Center on Nov. 29, and the health department is anticipating another test location on Dec. 27. More information on the testing site is yet to be released by the state.

Schleicher also mentioned the county positivity rate has been going down recently with the rate at 9.2 percent as of the meeting date.

Tracy Bauer, president and CEO of Midwest Medical Center, said there are three patients currently at Midwest Medical Center with COVID.

Board president Merri Berlage said she has received numerous emails about bars and restaurants being open for indoor service.

“As you guys know, we have nobody to take that to because our state’s attorney said he is not going to prosecute it,” said Berlage. “I know some people are upset about that and others are not.”

Schleicher said it is a statewide concern as well.

Bauer and Schleicher are also concerned about the results the county will see in the next few weeks due to Thanksgiving gatherings.

“I am already seeing it,” said Peg Dittmar, board of health member who works as a nurse practitioner at Midwest Medical Clinic.

“I am fearful of what we are going to see,” said Bauer.

Schleicher said there are currently no large outbreaks in the county and a large number of cases cannot be traced to a single restaurant or bar at this point. Schleicher said many of the cases she has seen have been household cases.

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Lisa Haas, board of health member and River Ridge school nurse, addressed concerns she has about the mental health of students as a result of COVID regulations.

“I am really starting to notice the toll it is taking not just on staff, but on the kids, the mental health aspect,” said Haas. “The kids have had everything taken away from them. They haven’t been able to do anything, and you can see it in the kids. They don’t care anymore.”

Haas said she also serves as a play director at the school and she intends to do something for the kids for them to focus on something positive.

“These kids need something to focus on, something to look forward to,” said Haas. “They can’t have practice anymore. When they had that week of sports practice, the energy level of the building was so much different. You didn’t take it away, but COVID took it away. The kids deflated after that. I know sports isn’t the be-all, end-all of high school, but in our rural area it kind of is. There is not much else to do. A lot of our kids are in a lot of things. They are in sports, they are in music, they are in plays or speech team. They do it all and now they have nothing. The kids were used to being so busy. For a while they were okay, but now they just don’t know what to do.”

Haas said that there are about 15 individuals out for COVID or quarantine at River Ridge.

“With us it is going to depend on staff. It has really come down to whether we can staff the building,” said Haas.

Berlage referenced a story she read about transmission in schools not being a concern.

“We haven’t seen a lot of transmission in the schools,” said Schleicher.

Haas said she also hasn’t seen any transmission of COVID occur at River Ridge.

“The cases I have had have been from home out in the community,” said Haas. “I told administration that this is showing that what we are doing at school is working, our masks and social distancing. It is working. We are not spreading it in the building. My hope is we can stay in session and keep the kids there. As much as you think kids hate school, they don’t. They are so happy to just be there.”


Other business

The board also:

•approved a bid from Globalcom in the amount of $24,680 for network wiring. The rewiring would get the health department hooked into the Jo Daviess County Courthouse telephone system.

•awarded the bid for the two remaining Elizabeth properties to the village of Elizabeth for $85,000.

•reviewed board of health bylaws.

•addressed additional emails received by county board members about the sewage ordinance.

•learned of an environmental health inspector vacancy after an inspector resigned.