Mask ask: Cook County urges residents to cover their faces — or face consequences of COVID-19’s ‘second surge’

Dr. Rachel Rubin, one of the co-leaders of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said Monday the county continues to “see a rise in the rate of new cases diagnosed each day.”

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Dr. Kiran Joshi, a co-lead at Cook County Health,

Dr. Kiran Joshi, a co-lead at Cook County Health, at a press conference in July.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Facing the beginning stages of a second surge of COVID-19 in suburban Cook County, officials said Monday they’re launching a campaign to urge people to “mask up, so we don’t have to close up.”

The campaign, called “mask up Cook County,” was unveiled Monday, just days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker added the suburban portion of the county to his list of areas at a “warning level.” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said last week that designation put the county “at a crossroads,”

Dr. Rachel Rubin, one of the co-leaders of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said Monday the county continues to “see a rise in the rate of new cases diagnosed each day.” The county has also started to see a rise in deaths.

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Dr. Kiran Joshi, a co-leader of the Cook County Department of Public Health, said the surge in new cases are spread throughout suburban Cook County, although they have not yet seen a rise in hospitalizations,

“I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we are now in the beginning stages of a second surge, and some schools are open, and colder weather and flu season are coming,” Joshi said. “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. … Mask up and back up to protect yourselves, your family and your communities.”

Rubin said the rise in cases includes a “very concerning” increase in grammar school and high school students getting sick.

Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical officer and co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, in July.

Dr. Rachel Rubin, senior medical officer and co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health, poses for a portrait in July.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

“We are prioritizing investigations of clusters in this age group for now, as well as young adults in their 20s,” Rubin said. “We are keeping a watchful eye on the situation and asking everybody, not just young people, to mask up, so we don’t have to close up.”

The digital ad campaign will run in English and Spanish in suburban Cook County and appear on YouTube, Instagram and Spotify throughout the month of September, Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle said Monday that COVID-19 cases in young people are up by 16%, a rise she attributed to a returned to social gatherings and travels and a tendency to “have often been lax in mask wearing.”

“Our young people must understand that they are not immune to the virus,” Preckwinkle said. “Even if they are asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms, they can still spread the virus to others who are elderly like their grandparents … young adults must continue to be vigilant in wearing masks and not partake in high risk or large group activities.”

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