Special Edition - Back To School
August 2021
Letter from the CEO
Dear Cook County Health friends and partners,

With fall approaching, many children and their parents are eagerly awaiting the new school year. While we are all looking forward to some semblance of normalcy after a very challenging year and a half, there are still several precautions we as a community should take to ensure everyone’s health and wellbeing. 

In August, we marked a somber occasion as Cook County recognized its 11,000th death due to COVID-19. We should never become numb to these deaths as they aren’t just numbers but real people who have family and friends that they have left behind.

These deaths also serve as a reminder about the importance of getting vaccinated. Currently, the vast majority of cases and deaths of COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated. If you have been taking a “wait and see” approach to being vaccinated, the time for waiting is over. The vaccines work; they are safe and they are our best tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Cook County Health has administered more than 877,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, including more than 80,000 doses to people ages 12-19. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for individuals age 12 and older. As children prepare to head back to school for in-person learning this fall, I urge parents to get their eligible children vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccines have been studied in children and are safe.

Doctors across the country are seeing more children test positive for COVID-19 as the delta variant has become the dominant strain. As our pediatric physicians will explain, children are not immune to COVID-19 and while many will have minor symptoms if they do contract the virus, we do see children getting seriously ill and suffering long-term effects. Children can also pass on the virus to other at-risk individuals in their lives. 

We are all eagerly awaiting approval of the vaccine for children younger than 12. Until then, we urge families to continue to mask. I am grateful to the state and local leaders and health departments who support Illinois’ mask mandate for all individuals in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Please share the information below with the communities you serve. The last 18 months have been unprecedented and providing the latest information on the COVID-19 virus is critical to ensuring a healthy Cook County. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines or to find a vaccination site, visit MyShotCookCounty.com or call 833-308-1988.

Israel Rocha, Jr.
Myth-Busting COVID-19 Rumors with Dr. Mopelola Akintorin, Chair of Cook County Health Pediatrics
There is plenty of misinformation out there regarding COVID-19, the vaccine and wearing masks. To clear up any confusion, Dr. Mopelola Akintorin, chair of Cook County Health’s pediatrics department, is tackling some of the common myths centering on children.

Myth: Kids don’t get sick from COVID-19
Fact: Kids have been less likely than adults to show symptoms of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean the virus isn’t dangerous. Many kids are asymptomatic, but they can still spread the disease to others. In addition, some children can get severely ill, especially those with underlying conditions like obesity and asthma.
In addition, some children infected with COVID-19 may not get very sick right away, but a few weeks later may come down with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children (MIS-C). Those children develop fever, rashes, red eyes, diarrhea and vomiting, which can worsen over a few days. The inflammation can affect the heart, blood vessels and other organs, making some children very ill and in need of urgent care.
 Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine isn’t safe for children
Fact: Throughout history, vaccines have helped prevent infectious diseases that had once killed or seriously harmed many children. Without vaccines, children would be at risk for severe illnesses, including measles, mumps, rotavirus and whooping cough, which could result in disability or even death.
The COVID-19 vaccine has been under more scrutiny than any other vaccine in recent history. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, approved for people ages 12 and older, was studied in more than 2,200 children ages 12 to 15. The trial shows that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing severe infection in those 12 years and older. Trials are underway to study its effectiveness and safety in children under 12.
 Myth: Wearing a mask all day is dangerous for children
Fact: No, wearing a mask is not dangerous for children. They can still breathe through and around the mask. Masks can block spit and large droplets produced by the respiratory system from an infected person. Contrary to internet rumors, it does not cause a build-up of carbon dioxide as the gas can get through the mask.
Myth: It is better for immunity to get COVID-19 – like I did with the chickenpox
Fact: Natural immunity is not enough. Getting COVID-19 and recovering (known as "natural immunity") does not appear to generate protection that is as long lasting or robust as the protection generated after vaccination.
Myth: Children can't spread COVID-19 
Fact:  Children infected with COVID-19 can spread the disease even if they do not have noticeable symptoms or become very sick. 
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines can alter a child's DNA or impact their fertility later on
Fact: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. MRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. The mRNA tells our cells to build protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. The material cannot enter the nucleus of the cells where our DNA is. The COVID-19 vaccine works with the body's natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. The vaccines do not affect your DNA.
There is also no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility. On the contrary, vaccinated people are getting pregnant and others have had healthy babies. 
Watch: Dr. Rosibell Arcia-Diaz on the COVID-19 Vaccine and Adolescents
Teenagers and adolescents, ages 12-18, are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Pediatrician Rosibell Arcia-Diaz explains why it’s important for young people to get vaccinated.

Learning about the Pfizer Vaccine for Children 12+

Aprendiendo Acerca de La Vacuna Pfizer Para Niños 12+
Cook County Health Celebrates Back-to-School at Bud Billiken Parade
Cook County Health will join thousands of area residents at the annual Bud Billiken Parade on August 14.

Along with having a float in the parade, Cook County Health will be providing COVID-19 vaccines and staffing first-aid tents. Get your vaccine at the festival in Washington Park near Dyett High School.

The best way to celebrate going back to school is to make sure your child does so healthy – and that includes a COVID-19 vaccine.

Visit www.budbillikenparade.org for more information.
Prioritizing Wellness Visits for Your Child
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and as children prepare to go back to school, now is the time to make sure your child has all the necessary vaccinations. This is particularly critical this year.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in June looked at immunization data for 10 states and found a sharp decrease in vaccine doses administered during March through May of 2020 compared with the same period during 2018 and 2019.

Pediatrician Dr. Rosibell Arcia-Diaz told the Chicago Tribune last month that missing vaccinations can have serious consequences.

While back-to-school physicals help fulfill school-required shots like DTaP (a vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) or   MMR ( a vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella), the visits are also key to ensuring children are hitting proper developmental milestones and screening for mental health concerns.

Cook County Health offers comprehensive health care for kids and teens. Many well-child services are free for patients with Medicaid or commercial health insurance. Call 312-864-0200 to make an appointment today.
Click & Print Check-Up Flyers
Tips for Good Pediatric Oral Health
While the COVID-19 pandemic meant delays in dental care for many families, ensuring good oral health is important for children. Tooth decay in the form of cavities is the most common problem in children that Cook County Health dentists see, and delaying a visit can lead to emergencies.
Dr. Jorelle Alexander, chair of Cook County Health’s oral health department, has these tips to ensure children are smiling big this fall.

  1. Brush teeth regularly. Children should brush twice a day in the morning and in the evening for two minutes each time. Set a timer to help kids make sure they are brushing for a long enough period. Use toothpaste that has fluoride in it.
  2. Avoid sugary foods and junk foods. Eating or drinking foods high in sugar puts children at greater risk for cavities, particularly long-lasting sweets such as hard candies or sticky candies like fruit snacks. Have children brush their teeth after having sweets.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks, such as fruit juices, fruit drinks and pop or soda.
  4. Change out the toothbrush regularly (every three months), or after a child is sick or if someone in the family is sick.
  5. As the school year begins and sports resume, protecting your mouth is important. A mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that should be part of your standard equipment from an early age. While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, are higher-risk sports for the mouth, any athlete may experience a dental injury in non-contact activities too, such as gymnastics and skating.
  6. Schedule routine cleanings for your child. Don’t just visit when there’s a problem.
Helping Children Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety
As families adjust to the continued changes caused by COVID-19, the Cook County Health pediatrics team has some tips and reminders for helping parents guide their children through this stressful time.
  • Stay calm, listen and offer reassurances. Talk to them about their feelings. Explain things in ways that are easy to understand and that can help decrease a child’s anxiety and fear.
  • Be a role model. Know that children react to and follow their parent’s reactions. However, it’s ok to talk about how you’re struggling, too. It helps let children know they are not alone.
  • Establish and maintain a daily routine. Keeping a regular schedule provides a sense of control. It also helps children and other family members respect others’ need for quiet or uninterrupted time and when they can connect with friends virtually.
  • Identify projects that might help others. This could include: writing letters to the neighbors or others who might be stuck at home alone or to healthcare workers; sending positive messages over social media; or reading a favorite children’s book on a social media platform for younger children to hear.
  • Practice daily good hygiene. Teach your child to wash their hands multiple times a day for 20 seconds. Signing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Happy Birthday” twice is about 20 seconds.
  • Build the immune system. Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly; this will help them develop a robust immune system to fight off illness. 

Early signs that your child may be struggling include:
  • Being irritable and tearful
  • Acting out or throwing tantrums
  • Seeking constant reassurance
  • Changes to sleeping or eating habits
  • Isolating more
  • Feeling less motivated or not being able to get things done, like schoolwork or chores
  • Not enjoying the activities they would normally

Contact your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child. If your child doesn’t have a pediatrician, call 312-864-0200. 
Ask the Doctor Series Allows Residents to Ask Questions about COVID-19, Vaccines
The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) is providing an online forum for residents with questions about COVID-19 and vaccines, called “Ask the Doctor.”

This virtual question and answer session is broadcast on the CCDPH Facebook page and the CCDPH YouTube channel. Sessions are held in English and Spanish. Visit the CCDPH Facebook page for more information.

Upcoming dates:
  • August 17 (English) 7 pm
  • August 18 (Spanish) 7 pm
  • September 8 (Spanish) 7 pm
  • September 15 (English) 7 pm
"Destination: Vaccination" Provides Free Rides to Vaccination Sites
The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) launched its “Destination: Vaccination” program, which will provide free rides to many vaccination locations throughout suburban Cook County.

The program will enable individuals with limited mobility or transportation issues to easily get vaccinated, removing a key barrier for many residents.

“Destination: Vaccination” is a partnership between CCDPH, Kaizen Health, and several Community Based Organizations (CBOs), to provide transportation for residents who need assistance getting to nearby vaccination clinics.

“We are providing additional access, education and outreach to encourage more individuals to receive the vaccination, but many barriers still exist. This partnership is an effort to bridge a gap that has continued to impact individual access to healthcare,” said Israel Rocha, CEO of Cook County Health. “We thank Kaizen and our CBOs for this partnership to help us provide a life-saving vaccine to Cook County residents.”

Residents who need a ride to a vaccination location can call 833-308-1988 to schedule a ride. The program is open to suburban Cook County residents, as well as Chicago residents who wish to utilize a Cook County Health location within the city.

Kaizen can provide vehicles to accommodate most residents, including those in wheelchairs or those who require child seats. Though advanced scheduling is preferred, residents can call for a ride and one should arrive between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on time of day and fleet availability. This service is provided at no cost.
Cook County Health Center at Belmont Cragin to Open in Late Fall
Later this fall, Cook County Health expects to open a new community health center in Chicago's Belmont-Cragin neighborhood.

The 25,000-square-foot building is located at 5501 W. Fullerton Avenue and will replace the Logan Square Health Center, which has remained opened.

The new health center will offer pediatric and adult primary care, women’s health, dental care as well as specialty services like cardiology and endocrinology. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance program will also be on-site.
Cook County Health in the News
Save the Date
August 23 and 24, 2021
Cook County Health’s Board of Directors will be holding public hearings on the FY2022 budget this month. The budget presentation can be found here. Public hearings are scheduled for Monday, August 23 at 9 am and Tuesday, August 24 at 6 pm.

For instructions on submitting testimony at one of the public hearings, please visit here.

Following approval of the budget, expected on August 27, the proposed FY2022 budget will be submitted to the Cook County Board of Commissioners for inclusion into the President’s FY2022 budget recommendation. The FY2022 fiscal year begins on December 1, 2021.
August 31, 2021
On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). ARPA is an ambitious initiative to stimulate the American economy, support residents, and curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Cook County will directly receive over $1 billion from the federal government through ARPA and is in the process of developing a responsible, comprehensive, and equitable spending plan to strategically use these one-time resources to support both immediate recovery needs and long-term transformative initiatives. 

Submit your input on how the money should be used by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, August 31 via an online survey. You can contact [email protected] with any questions or to submit more detailed feedback.
Visit our website at cookcountyhealth.org
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