Sept. 11, 2020 – With the number of teenagers testing positive for COVID-19 in the Village growing, Oak Park Public Health Director Mike Charley is urging teens to stop risky behavior and to cooperate fully with contact tracing efforts.
“I understand that sharing details about one’s movements might be difficult or even embarrassing,” he said. “But the people who are asking the questions are public health officials who are trying to slow the spread of a highly contagious virus. Efficient and timely case investigation and contact tracing is essential to keeping our community safe.”
Multiple recent positive cases are believed to be linked to one indoor gathering of teenagers at a private home where masks were not being worn and social-distancing guidelines not followed.
“Tracing all of the contacts each individual had during and since the event has met with resistance from both teens and parents,” Charley said, a situation that has put others in the community at risk, including many who are much more vulnerable than the teens practicing the more risky behavior.
Even though a number of the teens who recently tested positive confirmed they had been at the same gathering, most could not or would not provide an address, information Charley said is vital to identifying everyone who might have been exposed.
“Asymptomatic, but highly infectious teens from that gathering could have unknowingly spread the virus to their friends and families because those who tested positive were not willing to be open and forthright,” he said.
Knowing who an infected person has been with and where they have been is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19, according to public health officials. Public health protocols call for anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case to self-quarantine for 14 days from last exposure to the infected person.
“If an individual who tests positive doesn’t cooperate with contact tracers we won’t be able to warn others who may be at risk,” Charley said. “It is a frightening scenario that is playing out not only across the country but right here in our community. Cooperation is not just a priority. It is an obligation.”
Anyone who is contacted in reference to a COVID-19 inquiry should not be embarrassed, Charley said. Many people are becoming ill and the Health Department does not share private health information publicly.
As to why cases of COVID-19 are growing among the younger population, the prevailing view among public health officials is that some teens and younger adults may perceive they are less at risk than their parents or grandparents, which may make them more likely to take risks.
But unless they are wearing face coverings and practicing proper social distancing, the data indicate that they are just as much at risk as anyone regardless of age, officials say.
For more local information on COVID-19, visit www.oak-park.us/covid-19. More information about contact tracing is available on the CDC website.