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Warnings that the spread of the novel coronavirus would affect day-to-day life began to be realized in the McHenry County area on Wednesday, with a state of emergency declared and closures of at least two public buildings.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks declared a countywide state of emergency in response to news Tuesday from state health officials that a local teenager had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Franks said in a news release that the emergency declaration was not a decision taken lightly.
"However, with a McHenry County resident now presumptively diagnosed with coronavirus, I have the responsibility to ensure that we can bring all available local, state and federal resources to bear to blunt the impact and bring this to as quick of a conclusion as possible,” Franks said. “This declaration should not be taken as a cause for panic or alarm, and I echo Governor JB Pritzker’s call for level-headedness and calm while staying abreast of new developments and taking common-sense precautions.”
The McHenry County Department of Health, for its part, urged municipalities and organizations to consider postponing nonessential public events and meetings on Wednesday.
"As organizers weigh their decisions on the benefits and risks of hosting nonessential public events and meetings it is recommended to review the CDC recommendations related to hosting mass gatherings or large community events," a news release from the department said.
Melissa Adamson, MCDH Public Health Administrator, said it is unknown how the McHenry County teen was exposed to the virus, which is why it’s best to be cautious to reduce the risk of community spread.
“We understand large events are what pulls a community together, but all of us must consider what we can do to reduce the risk of contracting and passing along COVID-19 as well as other circulating viruses, like the flu," Adamson said.
For some public officials, being cautious meant closing buildings. School District 300 officials announced that Dundee-Crown High School would be closed on Thursday and Friday in order to be thoroughly cleaned, and the Woodstock Secretary of State Facility was also closed unexpectedly Wednesday. In both cases, officials cited possible exposure to the virus for the closures.
Franks' emergency declaration will activate emergency operations plans for the McHenry County Department of Health and the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency. The proclamation states the emergency will exceed the county's available personnel and financial resources, requiring funding and resources from the state and/or federal government to control any possible outbreak.
Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday that a Lake County man in his 50s had also contracted COVID-19, making him only the third patient – of 25 statewide – diagnosed with the diease caused by the coronavirus.
In addition to the McHenry County patient, state officials also confirmed a Kane County woman in her 60s had tested positive for the virus Tuesday.
Reports of possible coronavirus exposure at Dundee-Crown High School led school officials to announce a two-day closure of the building. In an email to D-C parents and guardians, Algonquin-based District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid said Kane County Health Department officials notified the school district the building may have been exposed to the virus. The building closures will allow time for teams to perform a comprehensive cleaning of the building. School is canceled until Monday, along with all extracurricular activities.
According to the email, the affected student and his or her family have been advised by the health department to self-quarantine while they wait for test results for another member of their immediate family. The student and family members also were tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday as a precaution.
District 300 officials confirmed that the student did not attend any large gatherings or school events in the past few weeks and is not showing any signs or symptoms related to coronavirus.
All after-school activities have been canceled through Sunday.
Some students at the school deemed the decision to close school unnessecary.
"I feel like it's not that big of a deal especially for children our age because it hasn't really impacted us because there' not really deaths of people that are school aged," Freshman Victoria Bogusc said.
Other students were in favor of the decision.
"I think it was smart to close the school so at least there's precautions. I think everyone's kind of reacting a little too much but that's my personal opinion," Sophomore Skyler Vulched said.
One student said the situation at the school is "dramatic."
"Kids are running around saying 'Oh my God, you have the coronavrius. Just becasue someone is sneezing and coughing, they run away from them," Sophomore Kristi Madey said.
People who visited the Woodstock Secretary of State Driver's License Facility at 428 S. Eastwood Drive on Wednesday expecting to take a number and a seat, instead left frustrated after learning the office was closed.
A notice posted on the door stated that the office was closed as officials investigated a potential indirect exposure to the coronavirus.
"At this time everyone is at low risk," the unsigned note read. "We will remain closed for the remainder of the day."
Secretary of State Press Secretary Dave Druker said later on Wednesday that potential risk to the vrius is no longer a concern and the driver's license facility will re-open Thursday morning.
"We had some concerns. Someone who works at the facility may have had some indirect contact with somebody. Once removed from COVID-19, we're more comfortable now that it's a more distant thing. We're doing deep cleaning over the facility now," Druker said.
Bev Borta, of Wonder Lake, came to the driver’s license facility seeking a handicap placard, and after learning the office was closed, she said she wasn't sure where she would go to get one.
Borta said that the driver’s license facility’s closure was one way the coronavirus is affecting everyday life. But she said she wasn't planning to let the pandemic affect her plans too much. She said she had a ticket for a flight to Phoenix on Sunday and she planned to use it. But she said she also would take precautionary measures, such as wiping down seats and surfaces.
• Eric R. Olson contributed to this report