Orland Park COVID-19 cases doubled in past 60 days

Orland Park COVID-19 cases doubled in past 60 days
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Opinion: Orland Park COVID-19 cases doubled in past 60 days

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau is nurturing an environment which is dismissing the threat of the Coronavirus COVID-19 and reports from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pekau, who apparently has a resistance to wearing a face mask, has argued that the rise in COVID-19 cases in Orland Park is due to the rise in testing. But only a portion of the village residents have been tested which means that the actual infection rates are probably far higher

By Ray Hanania

While Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau continues to resist the wearing of face masks — his small group of supporters insist that it is an infringement on their Constitutional Rights — the numbers of  Coronavirus COVID-19 infections continue to rise in the village.

According to data collected by the Illinois Department of Public Health, there are a total of 1,074 infections in Orland Park in Zip Codes 60462 and 60467, as of August 1, 2020.

That shows a steady and continued climb of 50 percent every month since July 1, when the IDPH recorded 530 confirmed cases and August 1 when the numbers increase by 50 percent to 781. The confirmed COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in the past 60 days.

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau at a bike ride fundraiser hosted by the Orland Park Police Department is the only person in the village photo that is not wearing a mask. Photo courtesy of the Orland Park Police Department.

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau at the Bike Ride for the Special Olympics Aug. 30 hosted by the Orland Park Police Department is the only person in the village photo that is not wearing a mask. Photo courtesy of the Orland Park Police Department.

Pekau has asserted in numerous political videos posted on the Village YouTube Channel that the cause of the increasing numbers is the rise in COVID-19 testing.

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In his August 14, 2020 YouTube video chat with the public, Pekau said, “Cases are what we regularly hear about from press and from the governor. For me, cases do not really tell the story for several reasons. The sheer number of tests. The more we test the more cases we have.”

His conclusion from his assertion seems clear: if there was no testing there wouldn’t be any infections, apparently. His extremist view is irresponsible.

In truth, testing helps the village know the full extent of the infection, rather than burying your head in the sand of political selfishness.

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In a recent photo of a Bike Ride for Special Olympics hosted by the Orland Park Police Department on Sunday August 30, 2020, Mayor Pekau was pictured filling out a form surrounded by other residents and attendees. He was the only person in the photo not wearing a face mask. But Pekau did have the equipment used by bike riders that one might argue isn’t really necessary to wear in order to ride a bike. Pekau wears the equipment to safely ride a bike, not a face mask to safely navigate the pandemic.

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The worst part of this debate is that “testing” is only a partial indicator of how bad things really are in Orland Park when it comes to the spread of this deadly pandemic.

The testing Pekau refers to only reflects a small percentage of residents who have gone out of their way to get tested for the virus. That means that residents of Orland Park really have no idea how serious the COVID-19 pandemic is because the vast majority of residents have not been tested, despite Mayor Pekau’s insinuation that infection numbers are not as important as other factors.

In fact, Orland Park has a population of 58,312 residents (as of 2018) — it’s probably more like 60,000 today. The IDPH reports that only 9,769 residents in zip code 60462 and 5,373 residents in 60467 have been tested. That means that only 15,144 residents of the estimated 60,000 total residents have been tested.

That means that the infection numbers only reflect the testing of 25 percent of the residents. If the pattern of infection reflects a steady spread through Orland Park — many employees at the Village of Orland Park have tested positive for COVID-19 already for example — then the real current infection rate as of today could actually be 4 times greater, or about 4,300, and rising.

The truth is that the presence of COVID-19 in the Orland Park population is not just a threat to those who have it but to those who do not have it, especially for senior citizens and residents who have pre-existing conditions who are most susceptible to getting the deadly virus infection.

In my opinion, the mayor of any community should be wearing a face mask when in public — understanding that it can be taken off to give speeches at rallies and events as most are doing. But wearing it sets an example for all to follow. Not in Orland Park, however.

In a recent photo of a Bike Ride for Special Olympics hosted by the Orland Park Police Department on Sunday August 30, 2020, Mayor Pekau was pictured filling out a form surrounded by other residents and attendees. He was the only person in the photo not wearing a face mask. But Pekau did have the equipment used by bike riders that one might argue isn’t really necessary to wear in order to ride a bike. Pekau wears the equipment to safely ride a bike, not a face mask to safely navigate the pandemic.

There is no doubt that Pekau embraces the extreme conservative view on coronavirus, that it is a government-driven exploitation of a typical ailment like the flu virus that is being exploited to deny Constitutional rights to those residents. They view it as an infringement on their rights, despite the fact that the United States shows the highest and worst rate of infections in the world.

Johns Hopkins University and Medical Center shows that the United States has 6.1 million COVID-19 infection cases of the world’s 26 million total confirmed cases. Johns Hopkins reports about 900,000 deaths worldwide from COVID-19, with 185,000 deaths in the United States, the highest of any other country.

Cook County, because of the presence of Chicago, ranks as having the 4th highest death rate of all counties in America, or 5,065 deaths trailing only Queens County, Los Angeles County, and Kings County in New York. In fact, nine of the 11 top coronavirus deaths are in New York. But Illinois and Cook County are not far behind.

Pekau may wish that Orland Park was not in Cook County. But the truth is that a large number of Orland Park residents are employed by companies located in Chicago where the bulk of the infections are located. Those who are still going to work — Orland Park has led the fight to ease restrictions against the spread of the pandemic — are potentially bringing back infections to the community.

Without proper protections, the virus can spread more easily, a commonsense aspect that has escaped Pekau’s selfish political agenda and policies.

Requiring face masks — which is what most responsible businesses are doing — is an added safeguard that along with social distancing and washing your hands and areas of contact can held stop the spread of the deadly virus.

It would be great if Mayor Pekau set aside his twisted and extreme political beliefs to make the concerns of the public in this pandemic a higher priority.

Ray Hanania

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