Press conference

Photo by Carla Waters

Dr. Phil Zumwalt, Iroquois County Board Chairman John Shure, Iroquois County Public Health Department Administrator Dee Ann Schippert and Eric Ceci, of the health department and emergency management agency, conduct a press conference Thursday afternoon about the first case of COVID-19 found in Iroquois County.

Editor’s Note: Since this story was written Thursday, March 26, the Iroquois County Public Health Department issued a press release March 27 saying a second man has been confirmed as a positive COVID-19 case. The Times-Republic will update our website and stories as information comes available. The second person is a 40-year-old male. Again, no other information is being released about the individuals. Both men, according to the health department, are in isolation at their homes.

A man in his 50s is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Iroquois County.

Dee Ann Schippert, Iroquois County Public Health Department administrator, made that announcement in a press conference Thursday afternoon at the county administrative center.

The man was tested March 23 by a medical provider. “Laboratory confirmed results were received today,” she said.

“The individual is a man in his 50s located in Iroquois County. The individual is at his home, is doing well and is cooperating with public health officials. He will remain in isolation per Illinois Department of Public Health guidance until he is released by the Iroquois County Public Health Department. At this time we are not releasing any additional details on the individual. We are respecting his privacy.

“Public health officials are evaluating exposures and will notify those we determine to be at risk of exposure. The situation is fluid. Guidance and recommendations regarding patients under investigation may evolve as more is learned.

“It is important to remember that even though there is a confirmed case, this is not cause for panic,” she said.

“We strongly recommend to continue social distancing and other social measures, which include, staying home as much as possible with adherence to the governor’s shelter at home requirement. If gatherings are absolutely necessary, limit the number of people to 10 or less. Call to check on family, neighbors and older adults instead of visiting them. Check with your provider about telehealth options if you feel ill.

“Remember to continue using proper hand hygiene. We’ve said this over and over, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

“Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of the tissue immediately. If no tissue is available, sneeze or cough into your elbow. Do not shake hands. Instead, use another non-contact method to address others. Clean frequently touched surfaces often.

“And most importantly — stay home if you are sick. If you have a respiratory illness, stay home for seven days after your symptoms have started and for three days after your fever has stopped without the use of fever reducing medications and your cough or sore throat symptoms have improved, whichever is longer.

“Avoid the emergency department and other places you seek healthcare if you are not severely ill. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, if you can manage your symptoms at home we recommend you do that. Staying home keeps healthcare access available for others with more severe illness.”

Dr. Phil Zumwalt, the health department medical director, said, “We recommend consulting with your doctor if you have the following symptoms: developing significant fever, cough, shortness of breath, other cold or flu like symptoms and do not feel better or feel worse after three or four days. It is better to use a telephone, text or telemedicine or patient portal to reach out rather than going to your doctor in person if possible.

“If you are an older adult or have chronic health conditions of concern, such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, significant smoking history and other mild symptoms, your provider will decide if you need medical care at that point. Usually you do not need to be tested unless you are admitted to the hospital,” Zumwalt said.

Iroquois County Board Chairman John Shure said, “On behalf of Iroquois County, I would like to thank our local partners for their diligent efforts to prevent the spread of coronoavirus within our community. We appreciate the cooperation and sacrifice of local businesses and community members at large in practicing social distancing. With no vaccine available this is our best response to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Shure said.

Eric Ceci, of the Iroquois County Public Health Department and Iroquois County Emergency Management Agency, said that several entities have been meeting virtually for a number of days. Those include EMA, IMH, emergency responders, EMS, law enforcement, 911 dispatch, fire departments, and several long term care facilities.

“Each morning these organizations are brought together virtually through the Iroquois County Emergency Operations Center, to conduct briefings, communicate needs, and coordinate efforts. This cooperation ensures Iroquois County’s joint preparedness for and response to COVID-19,” Ceci said.

Ceci said, for general questions about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) call the Illinois Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Hotline at 1(800) 889-3931 or, send an email to: DPH.SICK@ILLINOIS.GOV anytime, 24 hours a day,

For information on actions you, your school, workplace, and community can take, please visit Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities at:

http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus/preventing-spreadcommunities

For daily updates on COVID-19 in Illinois follow the IDPH Daily Updates page at:

http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus/mediapublications/

daily-press-briefings seven days a week.

During the question and answer those who test positive will not be identified and that specific geographic area of where the person lives will not be released. “We have decided to allow the individual who has tested positive to remain as anonymous as possible,” Schippert said. “Out of respect for him, he has been extremely cooperative with our health department, we will not be releasing that information at any time and I don’t foresee doing that in the future. I do think that it’s safe to assume that it’s everywhere and has spread throughout all communities.

“If you look at the numbers for our neighboring counties, some of them have numerous cases. So I think it’s a fair assumption to assume that coronavirus is out there,” she said.

Schippert did say, too, during questioning, that the community has been very cooperative in social distancing.

“I have been extremely pleased with the cooperation we have received from Iroquois County residents and businesses. What we are doing is going to make a difference. It is actually making a difference,” she said.

When the executive order came from the governor, she said, the health department received a lot of calls about what an essential is. “This is a difficult time for everyone,” she said.

“We would never want to do anything to hurt our own community businesses,” she said. “Our priority at this time is the health and safety of individuals, so we have asked for voluntary cooperation. If you read executive order number five, we did receive guidance at the health department, that ordered us to enforce the governor’s guidelines as the public health department because this is a public health issue. We are doing our best to enforce that.

“I can tell you that almost all of the businesses we have been working with, especially over the weekend when the phone was just ringing off the hook, have been so cooperative. We have businesses call us continually day and night asking us ‘how should we set up this?”, ‘should we be screening our employees before they come to work?’, so we’ve been providing those guidelines with them. We’ve been assisting them with screening tools. We’ve been assisting them with getting ahold of thermometers. Things like that. “I really think we are fortunate to live in the community that we do because I do think that not only the community at large, but also our businesses, are taking this seriously and doing what they can to prevent the spread of this disease. And for that I am extremely grateful.”

Schippert also noted that the health department has a webiste and Facebook page where they post the most recent information. She also noted that while the administrative center is closed to the public, county business continues. People can call the respective offices they may need. She said her staff is working and willing to assist people in any way they can.