Aug. 28, 2020 – Since Illinois began to reopen the economy under state guidelines, individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in Oak Park are increasingly younger, a trend public health officials say is likely to continue unless these residents work harder to reduce the chances of getting the virus.
Since July 1, the number of cases among those under 40 years old makes up more than 67 percent of reported cases. In comparison, prior to July 1 less than 35 percent of cases were among individuals less than age 40.
The increase in confirmed cases among the 14 to 19 year-old age range is driving the increase, officials say, as this age category has accounts for more than 18 percent of all cases since July 1 as compared to less than 2 percent prior to July.
“The prevailing view among public health officials is that some younger adults may perceive they are less at risk than their parents or grandparents so are more likely to venture back into society as it reopens,” said Oak Park Public Health Director Mike Charley. “But unless they are wearing face coverings and practicing proper social distancing, they are just as much at risk as anyone regardless of age.”
According to Charley, the risk of contracting the virus increases any time anyone moves beyond their household. Bars, restaurants and social gatherings have proven particularly problematic, he said, especially when too many people not wearing masks are too close together in an enclosed area with poor ventilation.
“More people are getting tested, which helps the state and our local health department better track the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “The criteria for who gets tested and testing capacity also have expanded since the pandemic began, both factors that affect data accuracy. But the fact remains that the number of cases is growing fastest among younger residents and unless they become more vigilant, the spread is not likely to slow anytime soon.”
The same guidelines for reducing exposure to COVID-19 apply to everyone regardless of age, public health officials say, including wearing face coverings when out in public, not attending large social gatherings, maintaining social distancing and staying home when you are sick.
Oak Park is not the only community facing challenges in stopping the spread of the highly contagious virus, according to the latest case data. The state was expected to move Cook County into the orange range of the rating scale for designating virus activity in specific geographic locations. The orange designation indicates signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the region.
The orange designation means residents should think carefully about the risks when deciding to attend or host a large social gathering, eating indoors at a bar or restaurant, or going to a movie.
More information on COVID-19 in Oak Park is posted at www.oak-park.us/covid19.