With non-mandatory stay-at-home advisories now in place in Chicago and suburban Cook County, Oak Park’s interim public health director is urging residents to follow those recommendations.
Joseph Terry, who was named interim public health director after the departure of Mike Charley, is urging residents to follow Illinois Department of Public Health recommendations to only leave home when necessary and limit social gatherings.
As part of Chicago’s advisory, residents are encouraged not to leave their homes except to work, attend school, seek medical care, shop for groceries or pick up takeout food. Those who do go out are encouraged to wear a face mask at all times.
A similar advisory, which went into effect Monday, is set to last for 30 days in suburban Cook County. Both notices stop short of a mandatory stay-at-home order because they are intended to be a final attempt at curbing the coronavirus’ recent resurgence before more drastic measures are taken.
Public health officials are advising against attending even small gatherings that mix households or traveling to areas that are experiencing high rates of positivity, going so far as to call such activities potentially dangerous.
“The growing number of cases is a warning that we, as individuals, must take personal responsibility to help slow the spread of COVID-19 or risk overwhelming our health care systems,” Terry said. “Right now, the state is only making recommendations, but if things don’t improve soon, more drastic measures such as a state-mandated lockdown become increasingly likely.”
Terry, who served as interim deputy fire chief for infectious disease from March 13 through June 5, spent that time focused on senior long-term care facilities and other matters related to Oak Park’s response to COVID-19. While serving as interim health director, Terry will be taking a temporary leave of absence from the fire department.
According to village officials, the number of Oak Park residents testing positive for COVID-19 is the highest since the first case was reported in mid-March. Through Nov. 13, more than 1,200 Oak Park residents have tested positive and 36 residents who tested positive have died.
“The risks we are facing right here in Oak Park can’t be overstated,” Terry said. “But we still can get a handle on the situation if we work together. My family and I are struggling too, but I know we have to stay strong to slow the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine becomes widely available.”
In River Forest, village president Cathy Adduci is also calling on residents to follow the advisories.
“We must remember to support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Adduci said. “Please continue to wear face coverings, practice social distancing and wash your hands. Stay home if you are sick and avoid gatherings.”
As of Monday, there have been 293 confirmed COVID-19 cases in River Forest, with a +34.1% change in confirmed cases in the past 14 days, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health.
The advisories comes as suburban Cook County sees positivity rates over 15% and is already under stricter mitigations from Gov. J.B. Pritzker that include a ban on indoor dining and bar service. Statewide, Pritzker also has hinted at a looming stay-at-home order but hasn’t gone that far yet.
In defending her optional advisory on Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “This is a progressive step. I hope we don’t have to go any further than this.”
Chicago Tribune reporter Alice Yin contributed to this story.