Report: COVID-19 peaked in Oak Park in April

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James Kay and Stacey Sheridan

Staff reporters

Oak Park's board of trustees received COVID-19 updates from department heads during a virtual board meeting Monday, May 18. 

Mike Charley, Oak Park public health director, reported that the village had seen its COVID-19 peak in April. The village has met some of the requirements necessary to proceed into the third phase of the Gov. J.B. Pritzker's five-phase Restore Illinois plan. 

"This plan will be used for us for our local planning," said Charley. Oak Park is currently in phase two, the flattening stage.

Within the next few weeks, Oak Park should progress into phase three, which allows steps to reopen the village. Charley said the village will abide by guidance from the state regarding how to safely reopen. 

Charley also said there have been 249 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oak Park and 16 deaths. An "overwhelming majority" of the deaths, he said, "have been associated with our assisted and long-term care facilities."

The health department continues to complete case follow up on every case, as well as conducting contact tracing. Dedicated staff provides guidance to those long-term care and assisted living facilities.

Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla, citing that 44 percent of local residents with COVID-19 are black, implored the public health department to do more to address that. Trustee Susan Buchanan agreed. Charley said the health department would take care to do so.

Fire Chief Tom Ebsen said early on the department reconfigured personnel and appointed Joseph Terry as deputy chief of emergency medical services. His responsibilities include infection control and working with long-term care facilities. 

"He's really done great work on both of those tasks," said Ebsen.

According to Ebsen, the number of COVID-19 patients transported by the fire department is now trending downward. The fire department's workforce is healthy and stable. Out of the 66 members in the department, not one has tested positive for COVID-19. 

"We think a lot of that in part is due to the diligent procedures we have in place at the fire department for disinfecting the fire stations, all the equipment we use and the apparatus," Ebsen said. "We've been very diligent about that." 

The fire department has three ambulances in service daily. After transporting a COVID-19 patient, the rig undergoes complete sterilization. The cleaning process takes about an hour, giving the crew time to shower and change into clean clothes.  

Police Chief LaDon Reynolds said the department had distributed roughly 300 masks at the police desk and have had 20 COVID-related calls to date.

The police department is in the process of purchasing the same coveralls used by the fire department "to gown up and remain safe" while carrying out police activities. The village installed washers and dryers for the police so that officers can launder their clothes after dealing with potential COVID-19 carriers.

Calls for service have begun to increase, particularly those related to crimes against persons, according to Reynolds.

Over the past week, 29 additional residents have tested positive for the virus. That brings the village's total of confirmed cases to 249. The 29 residents who tested positive over the past week range in age from their 20s to 80s. 

Along with the newest cases, Charley announced on May 15 that a fifteenth person, a man in his 90s, died after he had tested positive for COVID-19. On May 18, Charley also reported that a man and woman in their 80s died after they too tested positive for the virus. 

With three fatalities in the past week, Oak Park now has 17 residents who have died after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Based on the most recent info on the village's website, long-term care facilities in Oak Park have not seen any changes in regard to staff and resident confirmed cases. However, one resident at Belmont Village of Oak Park died. 

As reported last week, two residents and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at Belmont Village along with the most recent fatality. Berkeley Nursing & Rehabilitation Center has one resident and one staff member that have tested positive for the virus while one resident died. Brookdale Oak Park has had five residents and five staff members test positive for COVID-19 while one resident has died. Oak Park Arms has had six residents and three staff cases. So far, Oasis of Oak Park has 20 residents and five staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 while eight residents have died.

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