Fayette County has seen its positive COVID-19 numbers increase in the past couple of weeks, and a local official believe that a relaxation of guidelines and large gatherings have been contributing factors.
After many days in recent months on which the county saw no increases in positive coronavirus cases, as of Tuesday, Fayette County experienced 11 new cases in 12 days.
On Tuesday, the Fayette County Health Department reported no new positive cases, but the recent surge of positive cases has put the number of positives at 39.
According to the health department, as of Tuesday, there were nine active cases, 27 recovered cases and three deaths, with the number of tests at 1,939.
“From an EMA standpoint,” Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Director Kendra Craig said on Tuesday, “I think it was partly the relaxation (of guidelines), people not wearing a mask, and (some) businesses have relaxed what they’re mandating for people to do when they come into their stores.
“I think the gatherings – everywhere you go, you hear that somebody had a birthday party or somebody had some kind of gathering,” said Craig, who is also an employee of the health department.
“I think that (some) people are over it, not wearing a mask and not being in large groups,” she said.
Such surges, Craig said, could be expected.
“We’re pretty sure, through EMA and public health, that we were going to see an increase, just because we went to that different phase (Phase 4 in Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan).
“I just think that people are just being lax,” Craig said.
She remembers a doctor saying, “If we could have kept everyone in masks and kept everybody isolated for the period of time that was initially requested, some of this would have died off.
“Look at Montgomery County,” Craig said. “Right now, they basically have IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) in their backyard doing testing.”
That, she said, is because there have been several outbreaks recently in that county.
“I think now we’re taking a step backwards now, as Walmart is requiring the masks, all of these others (chains) are requiring masks,” she said.
“We didn’t see the increased positives when that (wearing masks) was happening,” Craig said.
“It’s not quote a ‘law,’ but each business can set up their own policy,” she said. “I mean, they can easily turn people away (if they wish to do that).”
Craig said that FCHD representatives met with school officials earlier in the day, “trying to preplan.
“They are already receiving calls from people saying, ‘My kid can’t wear a mask because of this or my kid can’t wear a mask because of that,’” she said.
“Well, then they need to choose remote learning as their avenue,” Craig said.
“Every business and every person has got to set their own policy,” she said.
“I think it will help cut down on the positives that are coming because of people wearing a mask,” she said.
Representatives of the health department have a conference call every Tuesday with local government officials, school officials, public health officials and representatives of local organizations.
“They’re talking about the fact that they’ve had clusters of people testing positive after weddings, wedding receptions and other large gatherings.
“Our graduations are already done, with the exception of Vandalia, and I know they have precautions in place, that they are planning to keep everyone 6 feet apart,” Craig said.
There are some cases, she said, where some people rescheduled their weddings earlier, till now, and at this time, they’re going ahead and having them,” she said.
She said that the FCHD and herself, as the county’s EMA director, as well as state public health officials, are recommending that people just need to again be more dedicated to wearing masks and observing social distancing.
“I know that Melissa (Storck, FCHD administrator) has said it several times, every person you come into contact with, you need to assume they are positive, and take those necessary precautions, because it’s the people who are not taking the precautions that cause our number of cases to increase,” Craig said.
“And get tested – if you have symptoms, get tested,” she said, “or if you don’t want to get tested, at least stay home for 10 days or so.”
With IDPH testing being offered in Montgomery County, near the county health department, Fayette County residents can travel there to be tested.
To be tested in Fayette County, Craig said, people still need to go through their primary physician for a doctor’s order.
Some people who doubt the seriousness of the coronavirus compare it to the regular flu. There’s a big difference, Craig said.
With the flu, you’ve got Tamiflu, you’ve got things that help with the treatment of the flu,” she said.
“At this point, we do not have anything to be able to prescribe and there’s no vaccination” for the coronavirus, Craig said.
“So, there’s a lot of the unknown,” she said.
“I know that people die of the flu in the thousands every year, but there is a treatment for that, there is a vaccine for that,” Craig said.
“It’s just so hard to figure all of this out,” she said.
Early on, Craig said, public health officials said, “Once the cold season is over, when it warms up, that will make a difference.
“Well, it’s not, so, again, it’s that not knowing exactly how this virus works and what it does, she said.
“On top of that, you’ve got all of the political games that go on because of it, and that’s not helping anything, either,” Craig said.
About the claims that the coronavirus cannot be the only factor when a person dies, she said, it is known that it “can make significant changes in another diagnosis.”