The number of COVID-19 cases is climbing among Lake County teenagers and young adults even as the county’s overall totals have held steady, the Lake County Health Department warned Wednesday.
Two Lake County high schools – Lake Zurich and Vernon Hills – have reported cases among participants in their summer athletic programs, leading Lake Zurich High School to suspend its athletic camps until further notice and ask participants in three of the camps to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to the Lake County Health Department.
The Lake County Health Department has found during its investigations into positive cases across the county that “many young people who attended social gatherings with their friends have become infected with COVID-19,” Dr. Sana Ahmed, the department’s medical epidemiologist, said in a news release.
For much of the pandemic locally, those under 30 had fewer cases per 10,000 people compared to the overall population, but that began to change in mid-June, Lake County data shows.
On May 8, when coronavirus cases were at a high countywide, the seven-day rolling average was 2.71 per 10,000 Lake County residents. For those under 30, the number was lower: 1.97 per 10,000.
The two averages began to converge around mid-June as the number of new cases fell, hitting a low around June 21, the data shows. At that point, the seven-day average was 0.49 per 10,000 residents and 0.43 per 10,000 residents under 30.
The rate for under 30 surpassed the overall population on June 25 and since then the gap has grown. As of Tuesday, the seven-day average was 0.62 per 10,000 for those under 30 compared to 0.81 for the overall population.
Teenagers and young adults “are just as likely as (older) adults to get and spread this virus, and your risk is higher if you and those you spend time with are not following social distancing, handwashing, and masking guidelines.” Ahmed said. “We ask that everyone continue to take these risks seriously and contact the Health Department if you think you have been exposed. We need your help to keep this virus under control.”
For parents wondering if this means they should pull their kids from camps, the health department recommends they take time to understand what safety measures are in place and ask questions to check if precautions are being taken, Lake County spokeswoman Hannah Goering said.
“This pandemic is far from over, and parents absolutely need to continue to guide their children and help them make the right decisions about gatherings, social distancing, and wearing masks,” she said in an email.
“Any social gathering is going to carry some risk – so the more gatherings a person attends with different groups of people, the more likely they are being exposed and possibly infecting others,” she said. “It is not just about your child’s risk – it’s also about risk to your household and the community. Reducing the number and size of gatherings lowers the risk, social distancing lowers the risk, wearing masks lowers the risk.”
Case investigations and contact tracing are underway for both schools, according the release. As part of the process, any students and staff who were in close contact with a confirmed case are asked to quarantine, are monitored for symptoms, and can get tested to see if they’ve contracted COVID-19.
The case investigation and contact tracing process is time sensitive, Ahmed said, asking that anyone who receives a call from the Lake County Health Department return it immediately.
Lake Zurich School District 95 was notified by families of students on the football, poms and baseball teams that the students had tested positive, Athletic Director Andrew Lambert said in a Tuesday letter to families.
The students had gotten tested because they had been in contact with someone who also tested positive, Lambert said. The families learned of the results Monday, after the first day of sports camps.
The school had originally canceled just the three impacted camps for the remainder of the week but has now canceled all athletic camps until further notice.
The Lake County Health Department is also working with Vernon Hills High School after a student participating in athletic activities tested positive for COVID-19 this week, spokeswoman Hannah Goering said, pointing to an email released by the district to parents.
The student, who was involved in a summer athletic workout group at Vernon Hills High School, tested positive July 5 and is now in isolation, Community High School District 128 spokeswoman Mary Todoric said in an email. The test result came after the workout group ended.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the student contracted the virus at the workout group,” she said, adding that the district will continue to follow Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and IHSA guidelines for athletic workout groups and camps.
The district is declining to release the number of students or staff impacted in an effort to protect the privacy of students and staff, citing Lake County Health Department guidance.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, but some people with no symptoms may still be able to spread the virus to others, according to the health department. Symptoms typically develop two to 14 days after exposure.