GUEST COLUMN • Answers To Frequently Asked Questions

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• I was around a positive and no one has contacted me.  Why not?

In order to be classified as a close contact–which needs to be considered for quarantining–a few things have to happen.  First, during the interview of the confirmed positive case, your name has to be mentioned and a decision is made as to your status of being within six feet of this individual for more than 15 minutes.  Next, we must obtain your contact information if it is available from the original confirmed positive case.  If they do not have your information, then the health department must look at other avenues, such as social media, the good old phone book, etc., to find a number.  Now, there are some problems that can occur during this process.  One, the confirmed positive case feels that we are invading their privacy and they refuse to provide any contact information, “I have contacted everyone who needs to know.”  Two, your information cannot be found.  Three, the confirmed positive individual is not a resident of Montgomery County, therefore, we have no notification of this positive case.  Since we did not perform the interview with this positive individual, we do not know any close contacts unless we are notified by the health department of the county where the positive case resides.  

• Why did I see so and so–who I know is positive–at the store?

There are a couple of possibilities on this one.  The individual may no longer be on isolation.  A positive case is on isolation for 10 days after the date of testing.  Unfortunately, some test results could take 5-7 days before they are received.  The case has occurred–though rare–that a person has served their entire isolation period before ever finding out their test results.  This means that an individual could test on Monday, get their results on Sunday, and be released from isolation on Thursday.  In the public’s eye, they were only positive and isolating for four days.  Another possibility is that they may just disregard the isolation orders and do what they want.  They also may have gone out before knowing they are positive.  They are instructed after testing to quarantine until results are obtained.  This does not always happen.

• Why aren’t you enforcing the mask law?

The new rule for mask wearing states that masks are to be worn by all individuals over the age of two years when in public places and unable to keep a six foot distance from others.   This includes both indoors–such as convenience stores, grocery stores, or the post office–and outdoors.  This would include wedding receptions, family reunions, birthday parties, etc.  When it comes to enforcement, the health department’s goal is for voluntary compliance.  Our first avenue would be education.  This could be either verbally or in writing.  A possible second step, if compliance issues continue, would be a written warning.  After that, the possibility of a fine or license revocation could occur.  Please do not misunderstand this as a threat.  The Montgomery County Health Department is here to protect all citizens during this pandemic.  We hope the “inconvenience” of wearing a mask does not result in some type of escalated procedure. 

• Why doesn’t Montgomery County list more details on confirmed positive cases?

The health department currently releases the cumulative number of positive residents, the cumulative number of negative tests, the cumulative number of deaths, and the current pending tests that we are aware of.   Other information such as age, sex, and zip code potentially gives an individual a false sense of security.  That 62-year-old male from Coffeen may shop in Litchfield and work in Nokomis.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 knows no boundaries.  Our county has had a positive case who was one year old and someone who was over 100 years of age.  This is not meant to create fear, but we do not want someone to let their guard down.  

• A few other things to note

Please understand that the Montgomery County Health Department does not receive additional money by having more positives or additional deaths in any way.  The numbers that are provided do not include incarcerated individuals at Graham Correctional Center.  Deaths are only counted once they have been confirmed through the State of Illinois.  The health department has no influence as to the cause of death.  If you have any questions, please contact the health department at 217-532-2001.  Stay safe. 

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